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by
Michele Catalano

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October 25, 2009 - 12:00 am

You’re standing in your kitchen making coffee. You are naked, but no one else is home. It’s early in the morning and you are in the privacy of your own home. All right, so maybe you’re a little bit odd, and maybe not everyone makes coffee naked. But your house, your rules, right?

That’s probably what Virginia resident Eric Williamson was thinking last Monday morning as he made himself coffee while dressed in nothing but his birthday suit. Unfortunately for Williamson, he wasn’t quite as alone as he thought. Walking through his yard were a woman and her seven-year-old son, on their way to the son’s school. The woman — a wife of a police officer – saw Williamson’s naked torso through his window and called the cops. Williamson was arrested and charged with indecent exposure.

There are some disputed accounts of this story. It is unclear precisely what time of the morning it happened and whether or not the man moved to another window as the mother and child walked across the lawn in order to remain in their range of vision.What’s not in dispute here is that the man was in his own home and the mother and kid were on his property, walking across his grass.

Perhaps the fact that the mother is a police officer’s wife had nothing to do with the overblown reaction, including the arrest of the man and an investigation to determine if this has ever happened with Williamson before, but I think we can guess it was a  factor. Something seems to have made the police department all too eager to arrest a guy for being nude in his own kitchen.

Williamson seems like the victim of cops gone wild. How many people do things in their own home that they wouldn’t do in public? The sanctity of our house is the last bastion many of us have.

Whether it’s something simple like smoking during dinner (outlawed in most public places) or something less innocent involving nudity and preferably our partner or spouse, we feel safe and protected in our house — or at least we should, presuming the activity isn’t criminal.

But nosy people and prudish neighbors think that if they wouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t be doing it either. Maybe most of us close the drapes if we’re walking around in just our skin, but we don’t have to — no such law exists. I’m sure it did not cross Williamson’s mind, as he walked into the kitchen and reached for the coffee pot, that a woman would be walking her kid across his lawn and looking in his window.

What if the tables were turned? What if Williamson were a woman and a man walked by the house instead of a woman? What if that man happened to look into the window, staring long enough to see that the woman inside was naked? Would he call the cops to say he was flashed? Probably not, because he would end up in handcuffs for being a peeping Tom. A woman looks in on a naked man and thinks he is committing a crime. A man looks in on a naked woman and she thinks he is committing a crime. Weird how that works.

So now Eric Williamson is branded a criminal, a pervert, a flasher. Even if he did walk to another window as the mother was walking, the mother was trespassing. She had no right to expect that she would be shielded from anything going on in the house, nor did she have any right to be close enough to the window to look in on a man making coffee.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will the charges be dropped? Or will the police department turn this into a witch hunt and continue to pursue every angle so as to save face for making such a big deal over it in the first place?

Whatever happens, there is certainly a lesson to be learned from this incident. Don’t assume that being in the privacy of your own home means you are really alone. Got a window in your shower? Board it up before some kid chasing a ball through your yard decides to look into your bathroom. Plan on getting drunk during the Super Bowl? Close those curtains or a neighbor taking a stroll through your yard might look in and have you charged with public drunkenness.

Before you engage in any dirty dancing or drunken revelry, remember Eric Williamson. It could happen to you.

Unless you’re female, of course. In that case, the burden is on the person looking in.

Michele Catalano lives, writes, and takes photographs on Long Island.
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