Is My Stepbrother a Peeping Tom?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been staying at my mums house for the last month while looking for more suitable accommodation. On two occasions I have noticed someone trying to look in my bathroom window as I’ve come out of the shower. I couldn’t see them properly but have just found out that it was my step-brother. He moved away to work just after and I have heard has been suffering from a lot of anxiety. He contacted me recently over Facebook, as he thought I had seen him, and apologized. He said he felt ashamed, guilty, and was worried that I hated him but thanked me for not telling anyone. I told him that I didn’t hate him but found it strange because he is like a brother to me, and that if he needs to he can talk to me. Have I handled this appropriately and can you explain his behaviour? I don’t really want to involve our parents as we are both in our 20′s and I feel it would make things awkward in the future. I know he is not a threat to me – he is a shy person who has trouble talking to girls.

A: You’ve handled this with far more compassion and understanding than most people would. Since he is shy with women, it may be that he was curious and chanced looking at you to satisfy that curiosity. The fact that he initiated an apology and says he is ashamed is to his credit. On the other hand, if he makes a habit of “peeping” and only apologized because he thought you knew, he could have the much more serious problem of voyeurism. Voyeurism is a paraphilia and involves observing unsuspecting people for the purpose of sexual excitement. Often it is accompanied by masturbation – either at the time, or afterward using what was seen as stimulation. In its most severe form, peeping is the only way for the person to have sexual activity in his life.

I think your instinct to talk to him is a good one. Perhaps he will tell you whether looking at you was a lack of judgment and impulse control or if it is an indication of ongoing behavior. If the latter, he needs treatment both to help him stop an intrusive and illegal behavior and to deal with the anxieties that prevent him from finding appropriate and willing partners. His message may have been a way to ask for help. I think it’s worth a discussion.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Apr 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Is My Stepbrother a Peeping Tom?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/04/14/is-my-stepbrother-a-peeping-tom/

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