Man exposes himself at Walter Library

There are leads on suspects, but police don’t plan to issue a crime alert.

University police have made no arrests in the case of an unknown man who exposed himself to a 21-year-old woman Thursday night at Walter Library.

The Minnesota Daily has a policy to not name sexual assault victims but, in this case, the woman requested her name be used to publicize such incidents.

Global studies junior Jessica Judd said she was writing a paper in the library’s basement at about 8:30 p.m. when the suspect entered the basement, in which three other people were studying, and sat next to her.

The suspect, who Judd described as a well-dressed man who looked about 30 years old with a shaved head, passed her a note asking if her phone took pictures.

“I just looked at him and said ‘OK,’ went back to work because I got kind of creeped out,” she said. “All of the sudden, I started hearing really awkward noises.”

Judd said the man was masturbating toward her.

The suspect moved to another area of the room and continued masturbating before returning to Judd’s table, she said.

“(He) sat down next to me, and he asked me, ‘Am I bothering you? Do you want me to leave?’ I was so freaked out, I couldn’t believe anyone next to me wasn’t doing or saying anything,” she said.

The suspect left the basement within five or 10 minutes, Judd said. She remained at the library until a friend picked her up.

“I didn’t know if he was someplace else in the library,” she said. “I was just kind of scared.”

When she got home, Judd’s roommate alerted the library to the incident and brought Judd to file a report with University Police.

University police are investigating the incident, said Chief Greg Hestness. There are leads on suspects, although the department doesn’t plan to issue a crime alert.

“We have cameras,” Hestness said. “We’re trying to determine if we have a good image for it.”

Students who witness suspicious behavior are urged to call police, Hestness said.

Two student monitors patrol Walter Library during evenings and weekends, associate University librarian Peggy Johnson said. They typically perform walk-throughs of the library at various times.

Judd said she saw monitors walk through the basement about an hour before the incident.

There are video cameras in the library’s entrances and stairwells, and heavily trafficked areas and in the basement, Johnson said.

“For the most part, we consider our libraries very safe,” she said.

Judd said the incident made her feel unsafe and violated.

“It really was (traumatizing),” Judd said. “At first it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this has to be a joke.’ It just keeps playing in my head.”

Roberta Gibbons, associate director of the Aurora Center, which provides advocacy and education regarding sexual assault, said Judd’s feelings are common for people who’ve been victimized.

“It can be very shocking, but it can also be very violating and create a very fearful situation for the victim,” Gibbons said. “All of that can really add up to weeks or even months of that self-questioning and fear about the same thing happening again.”

Indecent exposure isn’t always taken seriously, Gibbons said, but it’s firmly fixed on the spectrum of sexual violence.

“For the person who sees it, it’s an act of violence against them and needs to be thought of in that manner,” she said. “I would consider it a form of sexual violence.”

For people who witness similar incidents, Gibbons said they can call police or find an employee.

“Go up to the victim and say ‘You don’t need to put up with this,’ ” she said.

The inaction of others in the library basement could be due to the fact that they also felt victimized, Gibbons said.

For people who experience sexual assault, the Aurora Center is a good place to seek help, Gibbons said.

Judd said she’s unlikely to resume her habit of studying at the library.

“You can be ready for something like that in a back alley or bar,” she said. “I never thought I’d have to watch out in the library.”