June 13, 2008 -- Two female college students who were filmed during an intimate encounter without their knowledge are seeking justice.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design students Rosanne Strott and Emily Niland were in bed together when at least two young men videotaped them from a Wentworth Institute of Technology dormitory across the alley.
The video was uploaded to a shared Wentworth student network and had been in circulation for months before Strott and Niland discovered it in April.
"When I found out, I immediately vomited," Strott said. "It was a really strange thing for me. I had never felt so violated without being touched before."
Two of the men involved in the September videotaping have been identified by Boston police as Wentworth juniors David Cunha and David Siemiesz, who've been charged. According to a police account, the two men apparently filmed the incident from their dorm room, which directly faces Strott's at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Cunha could not be reached for comment by ABC News or the Boston Globe, which first reported the story. But Siemiesz told the Boston Globe this week that he sensed it was wrong to film the young women.
"I felt like it was kind of wrong," Siemiesz told the Boston Globe, when asked to describe how he felt while taping the women. "We didn't understand the severity of the situation when we were taping it."
But that admission was not enough for Niland and Strott, who said they couldn't believe the degree to which their privacy was violated.
"I was just disgusted, absolutely disgusted that someone would, first of all, videotape that, and second of all, distribute it to their friends," Niland, 20, said. "It's shocking that anybody would violate my privacy like that and not have any remorse for it."
Taking It To Court
Niland and Strott, 19, said they were dealt another blow last week when the Roxbury District Court assistant clerk held off on issuing a criminal complaint against the young men until Wentworth college finishes its investigation. Wentworth would not comment on the investigation because it is ongoing but said investigators expected to finish within two to three weeks.
For Strott, a Wentworth investigation is simply not enough. "I would really like to see them expelled from Wentworth, but there should be criminal action as well," she said. "What they did was a crime."
Video Voyeurism in the Digital Age
Video voyeurs are nothing new. But in the age of instant file sharing, improved video technology and the popularity of social networking sites, the effects for people on both sides of the camera have changed dramatically.
In January, for instance, a Mississippi man lost his appeal and was sent to prison for 15 years for videotaping a young woman in her home. At least 34 states have made it a felony under some circumstances to film or distribute images of people in places where they expect a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In Massachusetts, which isn't one of those states, police said this kind of video voyeurism is illegal even when flimed from one's own room. Boston police have charged Cunha and Siemiesz with videotaping a person nude or partially nude without consent, a misdemeanor that could result in two to 2½ years in prison.
Wentworth Institute of Technology took down the shared network where the video appeared after becoming aware of its existence. But the footage had already been downloaded on computers and e-mailed to students in other schools.
Strott said that she was "most disturbed" when a Boston University student she had never met before saw the video and told Strott she was "famous."
A Common Problem?
While the videotaping was a particularly extreme violation of privacy, Strott and Niland said that this kind of voyeurism is nothing new at their school.
Indeed, Siemiesz told the Boston Globe that "I didn't feel like a Peeping Tom. I felt like this type of things happens a lot.
"This all would have never happened if their windows were closed."
Strott said that she and her roommates had been pointed with lasers from students across the alley when they were changing before and that she had also heard of this happening to other students in her building during intimate acts.
The Massachusetts College of Arts and Design acknowledges the gravity of the incident.
"We respect the right to privacy of all our students, and we take the situation very seriously," the school said in an official statement. "We are confident that our colleagues at Wentworth and others do as well."
Niland believes these violations are all too common, but that victims don't speak out about them because they are ashamed. She hopes that making her personal experience public will help change that.
"It takes a lot of power away from the victim when you can manipulate them with shame," Niland said. "Blinds open or not, I have nothing to be ashamed about. I might be embarrassed, I might feel violated, but I have nothing to be ashamed about. They are the ones who have something to be ashamed of."