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Dressing Room Dangers – a Warning for Women | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Dressing Room Dangers – a Warning for Women

This is for all women: be on your guard the next time you try on clothes in a store’s dressing room. You need to be prepared to protect your privacy. Last week, I had a terrible shopping experience; not only did the store fail to have procedures in place to protect women from predators but the first step of the legal system failed as well.

Last week, I was shopping with a friend when she went into a dressing room to try on clothes. As soon as she went into her dressing room, a couple walked out of the dressing room beside her: a female and her boyfriend, who was about 6 foot 6 inches tall. He was so tall that he could see over all the women’s dressing room doors and was looking for a show. Because he was so big, I immediately went to find help and told the first cashier I found.

“There’s a tall peeping Tom going through the women’s dressing room.”

The cashier and I returned and could not find him. Then he walked out of the dressing room with his girlfriend again, again getting a peep show as he left (my friend could see him walk by). I called to the cashier and pointed him out. She approached him and walked away with him.

I then stood guard at the dressing rooms, waiting for my friend to exit.  She found clothes to buy. As she checked out, I asked the cashier (different from the first one) to call the store manager. I wanted to know what had happened to the peeping pervert. The manager knew nothing of it. My new cashier, as I described the peeper, commented he had just left the store with his friend. I got angry and asked about the store’s procedures to protect women’s privacy, and I asked about security tapes. The cashier I originally approached came up and said she had just told the guy he couldn’t be in the dressing rooms.  The store cashier deliberately let the peeping Tom get away.

The store’s manager was patronizing. I gave my phone number and asked for a follow up report. A week later, I have heard nothing. I emailed the national website and have heard nothing. I called their complaint number (buried on the website and they nearly didn’t want to talk to me) and have heard nothing. When I wrote on the national chain’s Facebook wall, they responded in 2 hours and apologized.

The story gets worse. We then went to shop at another nearby store and saw the peeping pervert with his girlfriend going in. I took down his car and plates, and we called 911. I spoke with a police officer. He pulled the guy’s record and said he had no priors. We were given a choice of having him arrested so he might be charged with a misdemeanor. The police officer said if we did not he would talk to the guy when he left the store.  We opted for the talking to and assumed the police report would be a beginning record of incidents if this guy repeated them later. We erred on the side of mercy.

When I called police records the next day, I learned that the officer did not file a police report. All there is is a run report. Our legal options are limited.

Then I learned that other dress stores in our area have an increased problem with couples going into dressing rooms to play show and tell. Had I known then what I do now, we would have gone for the arrest.

A generation ago, sexual harassment was typical in the workplace and beyond. I thought that my daughter would not face the same gropes and disrespect that were typical when I was her age. I was wrong. 

Lesson learned – if stores can’t or won’t protect women in dressing rooms, and law enforcement fails to take this seriously, it’s up to us to take care of ourselves. Suggestions:

  1. Share this blog with your family and friends so they are aware of the problem.
  2. Go in pairs to women’s dressing rooms. One should watch guard while the other tries on clothes. Scope out a dressing room and make sure no one is in it.
  3. The one watching guard should have a cell phone with a camera or video cam ready to snap photos. Then you have evidence.
  4. Before going into a dressing room, see where the nearest clerks are should you need assistance.
  5. Have a phone ready to call 911 from the dressing room to ask for help. If an incident like what we saw happens, insist the perpetrator be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the current laws.
  6. If an incident happens, contact your local news media and tell them what happened. Show your photos and videos to them.

Long term ways to take care of ourselves:

  1. Insist stores have dressing room doors that are taller.
  2. Spend more money in stores with a dressing room attendant.
  3. Ask lawmakers if they have laws to protect the privacy of women in dressing rooms. If your state doesn’t, ask that laws be written.
  4. Hold law enforcement accountable to defend the rights of women and their privacy.

Bottom line for stores that sell women’s clothes: 

  • If you want us to spend money to buy your clothes, take care of us.
  • Protect our privacy in dressing rooms.
  • If you fail to do so, we’ll spend our money elsewhere. Why bother shopping in your store when I can go elsewhere, buy online, or enjoy a home fashion party of CAbi or Vault jeans with my friends?
  • And  then we’ll tell a few thousand of our closest friends – in blogs, on Facebook, Google Plus, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Clothes stores that fail to honor the privacy rights of women in their dressing rooms seal the coffin of their own demise.


30 Responses to “Dressing Room Dangers – a Warning for Women”

  1. Nibby Priest January 3, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Come on Mary. Give us the store’s name.

    • Stacy Memos January 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

      And its your fault why i cant go in the the dressing room with my boy friend. well maybe you should thing before you freak out everyone knows what you have and you know what everyone else has so what he wanted to look he shake what your mom gave you haha every one needs to calm down

  2. Stella January 3, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I’m confused – did you actually SEE him peeping? It sounds like he was tall and COULD have peeped if he wanted to, but I can’t tell where you actually saw him checking out people.

  3. Jennifer January 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Mary~ I find your article informative and will definitely use caution next time I am in a dressing room. However, in careful reading and re-reading of the blog I do not find where the man in question was indeed peeping at ladies in the dressing room. Was he or was he just so tall that he had the opportunity if he’d wanted? I agree that stores should do everything possible to make shoppers feel safe and take seriously any concerns brought to their attention, but to call him into question because he is tall seems a bit over the top. If the dressing room is not co-ed then he should be asked to leave. So, was he looking in or did he just have the potential to be a peeper?

    • maryb January 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

      If I walk into a woman’s dressing room that is labeled as such, I do not do so expecting to see a man taller than the dressing room doors going in and our. Further, I can walk by a room easily tell you who and what is in that room without standing and peering directly into it. Further, as a mother, if I send my daughter into a woman’s dressing room, I would do so expecting her to be safe in that dressing room and not have to worry about looking in the dressing room mirror and seeing a man looking at her. If department stores are going to let men into women’s only dressing areas, they need to be up front about it and have doors tall enough to protect the privacy of women.

      • Stella January 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

        So, basically, you called the cops on(and considered asking them to arrest) someone because he was tall? You’re calling him a Peeping Tom just because he physically had the physical *ability* to peep? DID HE ACTUALLY PEEP?

        I’m short and could easily bend over and peep under a dressing room door. Should I be arrested as a pervert, too?

        And to blame the store, that’s just ridiculous. They let him get away because he didn’t do anything wrong.

  4. Tammie Tuley January 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Not understanding the problem. A man should not be in a woman’s dressing room area for any reason. That’s why women try an outfit on and then go outside of the dressing room to see what they think. Most men would not want to go into a women’s dressing room anyway. Even at Walmart they have different area’s. Obviously, something wasn’t right with this whole situation. Thanks Mary for giving us this warning. We have been told over and over to be aware of our surroundings and this is one more example of why.

    • Stella January 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Perhaps that’s what you THINK the problem is, but that’s not the problem Mary addressed in the post. She accused some guy of peeping when he didn’t peep.

      Many, many retailers have coed fitting rooms nowadays. It’s not a crime, it’s a choice. If you don’t like it, stop shopping at those stores, but don’t accuse people of being perverts and stores of being uncaring.

      • Stacy Memos January 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

        I agree with you 110%

  5. Angie January 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Agreeing that men have no business there at all. If there was a man in the women’s dressing room and the store did nothing about it, I would take an armload of clothes to the counter and tell the manager that this is what I would have tried on and potentially purchased had the dressing room been safe. If I actually saw a man looking into occupied dressing rooms, I would call the police and skip the store manager altogether. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • maryb January 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

      The area was labelled women’s dressing room. Not co-ed. There is no reason for a man to be in that area. If a store has co-ed dressing rooms, be up front about it. Otherwise, any man in a woman’s dressing area is putting himself in a position where his motives will be questioned. If he walks by a dressing room where a girl is changing clothes, he is opening himself to additional questions.

      • Pam January 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

        If I’m in a women’s dressing room and I see a man (tall or not) my only thought would be this guys up to no good. You absolutely did the right thing! It is always better to err on the side of caution. When we don’t, bad things eventually happen.

        • tim gravy January 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

          read what this nice person had to say,

          Kelly October 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

          Nothing should be done about this until every department store bans women from going into men’s dressing rooms. Women are allowed to go in, and no one ever says a word. But if a man stands anywhere even NEAR the door, even if he’s there with his wife or girlfriend, he’s asked to move. You should get no such special protection until and unless there’s total equality.

      • tim gravy January 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

        Kelly October 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

        Nothing should be done about this until every department store bans women from going into men’s dressing rooms. Women are allowed to go in, and no one ever says a word. But if a man stands anywhere even NEAR the door, even if he’s there with his wife or girlfriend, he’s asked to move. You should get no such special protection until and unless there’s total equality.

    • tim gravy January 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

      equality is key

      Kelly October 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Nothing should be done about this until every department store bans women from going into men’s dressing rooms. Women are allowed to go in, and no one ever says a word. But if a man stands anywhere even NEAR the door, even if he’s there with his wife or girlfriend, he’s asked to move. You should get no such special protection until and unless there’s total equality.

  6. Carolyn January 26, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    I live in the Philly area and this is a growing problem around here. Not sure how new the trend is; I first noticed it during 2011.

    Last week I took my 14 year old shopping for a semi-formal dress. We met her friend in the Misses Dept. of a prominent department store. While the girls were trying on dresses, a young man, who’d been “hanging out” by the dressing room entrance (with his cell phone out), was called into the dressing room area by his girlfriend.

    I confronted her right away. I said “Absolutely not! If you want to show your boyfriend something YOU can walk outside to do it.”

    You know what her response was? “Other stores allow it!” I said, “Target allows it. This isn’t Target!”

    She acted indignant that I took issue with her boyfriend (cell phone out, remember?) entering the dressing room area! Hello?!

    • tim gravy January 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      screw you lady, you cant tell people how to live

      • Stacy Memos January 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        Ture haha

    • Alexis Moresi July 22, 2014 at 12:45 am #

      Your rediculous hahahah

  7. Angela Nichols January 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Nice article and I agree, but having camera’s in the stalls while I undress is UNACCEPTABLE. The location and format of Burlington’s dressing room is horrid. It sits practically in the middle of the store. There are no ‘doors’ to enter the dressing room, just a few stalls in a small hallway. Rarely is anyone there to help; it’s primarily self serve. And ANYONE can get to it. (Unlike Target where a woman hands verifies the # of items, escorts you to the stall and does her work a counter in front of the stalls thereby preventing unnecessary entry.)

    I think Burlington, and any other store experiencing other such ‘peeping’ issues, would be better served by making the area more monitored. And I DON’T mean by a camera. That’s invasion. It would not only protect us, but them – by having someone monitor what goes in and what goes out of the stalls. (theft)

    Sorry you were offended by this man’s actions. Some people have no morals. Businesses should rectify the issue once they see the problem. Period.

    Love & peace.

  8. Kelly October 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Nothing should be done about this until every department store bans women from going into men’s dressing rooms. Women are allowed to go in, and no one ever says a word. But if a man stands anywhere even NEAR the door, even if he’s there with his wife or girlfriend, he’s asked to move. You should get no such special protection until and unless there’s total equality.

    • tim gravy January 1, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      damn, right

    • Stacy Memos January 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      This is so true my boyfriend and i went shopping yesterday and one of the worker ladies followed us in to the changing room telling my boyfriend he had to leave because some ladies like to come out of the dressing room in nothing but there bra’s and what ever bottoms they want to try on. If they do that whats the point in even having a dressing room? they can still see people in there. I was a little pissed that she thought she could boss us around i could see if it was extremely busy but not 10 minutes before they close. to top it all off there were two lez lovers next to me so they can but we cant wtf

    • Joshua January 21, 2015 at 1:03 am #

      What if he’s not looking into the stalls, but simply in the dressing stall with his wife/gf/SO trying on I don’t know… let’s say bras and panties. Maybe she wants his input on what he might like or for other reason I won’t dig deep into. Others say that she should take a picture with her phone and send it to him, but that’s sound stupid and a little risky seeing that it could leak to someone she doesn’t want to see it or even worse. I think people are so quick to jump to conclusions and assume things, before they know the person and what the situation is. Yeah, he’s in the dressing and no he shouldn’t be in there. However, I find how parents and adults try to act mature about things to their children about seeing things, such as, female and a male naked. However, when it comes down to test their thought about being seen naked their all “No no no no no”, just tell me what do you have that billions of people in the world haven’t already experienced at one time or another. The real problem is the insecurity in the person being seen,not the person doing the observing. I’m pretty sure National Geographics doesn’t go by making women from tribes in African to sign a disclaimer saying that they won’t show them naked or bared breast, so what’s the difference “Explain”. I find that they’re the ones who are truly mature, because they act as if they’ve seen them before and that it’s nothing new for them to see a pair of breast, genitals, or a butt.

  9. tim gravy January 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    damn that guy is lucky, i wish i could be that tall. and if you are so worried about being seen naked, grow up its natural, we are born with out clothes and why does it matter if we are seen with out them

  10. maria ecklund August 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    To the author” mary ur an absolute idiot!” Just because a person is really tall that doesnt make them a peeper!” u accused a man and called him a tall peeping tom… based on ur stupid assumtion. If i see a person actually peeping i would kick his balls into his throat!”

  11. cindy August 26, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    Omg people like u are the reason this world sucks i doubt every time u go to a store their is a peeping tom but if he really was u should of called the cop and that was that instead u mad multiple people uncomfortable who wrre trying to do their job Instead u started a whole mess of drama.

  12. Bob January 24, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    I think you need to seek some professional help if you really believe that every guy who is dragged into a dressing room by his girlfriend or wife is a peeper. My wife makes me go with her all of the time when she is trying stuff on. You’re paranoid and delusional and you could have ruined someone’s life over it.

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