They do not know his name, but some students have had disturbingly close encounters with him. He often comes up in conversation and has become the subject of jokes and songs. The man, an infamous naked masturbator, has been spotted in the yards of at least three off-campus student houses since this summer.
“We had called him the ‘peeping tom,’” said Avery Houser ’12.5, who said some of his friends call him the “jerking tom.”
A female senior living in a John Street house said she has seen the man — who usually stands outside her kitchen window — at least five times this month. He was last seen by a resident of the house Friday night around 9 p.m., she said.
The man was first spotted by residents of her house over the July 4 weekend. The residents requested their address not be printed and their names be witheld due to concerns that the man would be able to identify them.
“I was doing dishes in the kitchen, and I saw a naked man. And then I realized he’s masturbating — completely naked and masturbating,” said a female junior who lives in the house. She said he was within a foot and a half of the kitchen window at the time.
The police came within a few minutes of her call, but the man had already left. He has run every time residents call the police.
Houser said he did not know what to do when he saw the perpetrator Sept. 4. He described the man as wearing gym shorts with a shirt on top of his head.
“We think we know who it is,” said Providence Police Lt. John Ryan. Ryan, who declined to give the suspect’s name, said the suspect has been arrested about 22 times, which could be the reason he is now so good at evading capture.
Ryan urged students to remain vigilant and to call the police as soon as they detect any suspicious activity. “If they call us when it happens, we can get there in just a few minutes,” he said.
When the man is arrested, he will be charged with disorderly conduct and will likely serve three to six months in jail, Ryan said
The University is aware of the problem and has offered support for students in affected houses.
The junior said she spoke with a dean in the Office of Student Life, who offered the students on-campus rooms until the situation is resolved. The office later followed up with her and her housemates to offer further assistance, she said.
At first, the junior’s reaction to the masturbator was one of sympathy. She said her first thought was, “He has no outlet for this sort of desire.”
“But now, I’m so angry at him,” she said.”It’s violating that he feels entitled to get off on our sense of security.”
Houser said the man is a topic of constant conversation among his friends. He said his friends have made jokes and even songs about the intruder.
But the playfulness partly belies the gravity of the intrusion. “It’s scary. I think that’s why people are joking about it so much,” Houser said. “You would expect your home to be an objectively safe place, but then, all of a sudden, there is this presence that makes it really open.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the female senior saw the man last Friday. Due to an editing error, a previous version also stated that the masturbator had a mop of black hair. The Herald regrets the error.