Criminal Intrusive Staring (CIS) and Visual Tourettic OCD (VTO) differ significantly. This article will explore the physical symptoms, psychological aspects, and potential legal consequences of CIS and VTO. It will include two real-life scenarios to illustrate their impact on the person staring and society.
Criminal Intrusive Staring
According to Transport for London (TfL) and the police, criminal intrusive Staring (CIS) is when someone is staring at another person in a way that makes them uncomfortable, intimidated, or frightened. The stare may be prolonged, unwanted, and may include leering, winking, or other inappropriate gestures. This behaviour is considered offensive and may result in legal action if reported.
Physical Symptoms: The victim of CIS might feel fear and discomfort. Some people may feel nauseous, dizzy, or disoriented, whereas others may experience a tightening in their chest or an elevated heart rate.
Psychological Aspects: From a psychological perspective, CIS can cause significant emotional trauma for the person being stared at. They may feel violated, humiliated, and powerless. Over time, this can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Potential Legal Consequences: Criminal Intrusive Staring is often regarded as a deliberate act of harassment, which can result in a fine, a restraining order, or a prison sentence.
For example, in May 2022, a man was sentenced to five months in jail after a woman reported him to the police for “continuously staring” at her on a train. The man was found guilty of causing intentional harassment after he sat next to the victim on the train and began staring at her “very intently”. The woman repeatedly asked him to stop, but he continued to stare despite her distress. At the time of his sentencing, a sergeant from the British Transport Police said it was clear from the defendant’s “persistent and distressing actions that he is a danger to women and girls”.
Visual Tourettic OCD
Ocular tension in Visual Tourettic OCD (VTO) is a condition that results in involuntary visual actions, such as staring, scanning one’s periphery and rolling the eyes. This condition involves obsessions and compulsions related to OCD. For example, suppose someone releases a tic on a person’s private region. In this case, they will ruminate about being caught and called a deviant or criminal intrusive starer. Similarly, people experiencing obsessions with symmetry, orderliness, or cleanliness, may display tic behaviour. This may be to unleash a tic on a particular part of an individual’s face or body that they find asymmetrical or unclean. Finally, people may find they release tics on a person’s tattoos, scars, jewellery or something else. People with VTO find it difficult to move their eyes from where they landed a tic. This is usually a freeze response associated with anxiety, but it looks like staring.
Physical Symptoms: The physical symptoms of VTO can be anxiousness and feelings of panic with a fight-flight or freeze response. These symptoms are made worse by the ridicule and stigma of those around them.
Psychological Aspects: VTO causes significant psychological distress for the person experiencing the symptoms. The tics can lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment, unemployment and isolation. Over time, this can contribute to physical symptoms, such as increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Potential Legal Consequences: A tic in VTO is not a criminal offence, even though getting stuck staring may appear disruptive in certain settings, such as the work environment. However, the OCD community are now advocating and educating people on this disorder. They urge people to see that it is a neurological problem and not the fault of the person releasing involuntary tics on their private regions, face, tattoos, scars and peripherally. So, while people who experience these symptoms may be seen as rude, leading to negative social interactions, they do not wish to cause distress to anyone. Instead, it causes them emotional pain, and they feel responsible for others’ embarrassment or distress.
For example, a man with VTO reported experiencing staring behaviours he could not control. He said that he often felt embarrassed and ashamed by these behaviours and that they negatively affected his relationships with others. Additionally, he had trouble concentrating at work, and his colleagues ridiculed him and labelled him a creep, while others avoided him, embarrassed by his alleged motives. As a result, he could not work anymore due to depression and subsequent isolation. However, eventually, he sought professional help and was able to manage his symptoms with medication and exposure and response prevention therapy.
In conclusion, CIS and Visual Tics in OCD have different origins, physiological and psychological aspects, legal implications, and prevention strategies. While CIS is intentional and socially unacceptable, VTO is involuntary and associated with a mental health disorder. Therefore, educating people on consent and harassment associated with CIS and legal action could help prevent intrusive staring for a safer, more inclusive society. In contrast, raising awareness and treating VTO with therapy can help people recover, rebuild social bridges, and return to employment without stigma.