A Utah Woman Is Facing Criminal Charges for Going Topless in Her Own Home

Yes, you read that right.

Women participate in Go Topless Day at Hampton Beach, N.H. in 2017.Ioanna Raptis/AP

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

A West Valley, Utah, woman is reportedly facing criminal charges for being shirtless in her own home. Prosecutors allege her actions violate the state’s lewdness law; her lawyer argues the law unconstitutionally discriminates against women who are punished for going topless while men are not.

Tilli Buchanan and her husband were installing insulation in their garage when they shed their itchy clothing and stripped down to their underwear, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. When Buchanan’s stepchildren came into the garage and saw her topless, she said that they shouldn’t be embarrassed, because her husband—the children’s father—wasn’t wearing a shirt either.

The timing of the incident is unclear. Buchanan says it happened in fall 2016, but prosecutors say it was in November 2017 or January 2018.

The children’s mother, who was not present during the incident, reported it to authorities after the Division of Child and Family Services began an investigation about the children that was unrelated to Buchanan. As Jessica Miller writes for the Salt Lake Tribune:

West Valley City Deputy Attorney Corey Sherwin offers a different account in court papers: He alleges that Buchanan stripped down in front of her stepchildren after making a statement about how if her husband could take off his shirt, then a woman should be able to as well.

He further alleges that Buchanan, while “under the influence of alcohol,” had told her husband that she would only put her shirt back on if he showed her his penis.

The police became involved in the situation after the Division of Child and Family Services began an investigation involving the children that was unrelated to Buchanan. Though it was not the focus of the initial investigation, Sherwin wrote, the children’s mother reported it to authorities because she was “alarmed” about what had happened in front of her kids.

Buchanan, the stepmother, said she hadn’t thought about the incident much since it had happened — until a police detective called her earlier this year and asked about it. Then, weeks later, the charges were filed.

Even though Buchanan was topless in the privacy of her own home, she is now facing potentially very serious consequences: three counts of lewdness involving a child, a class A misdemeanor which could land her in jail and place her on the sex offender registry for 10 years. Utah’s ordinance about lewdness involving a child prohibits the exposure of “the female breast below the top of the areola,” either in public or “in a private place under circumstances the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm or with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor or the child.” 

“Because Tilli Buchanan is a woman—and only because she is a woman—the state now seeks to condemn her as a child sex offender for engaging in the exact same non-sexual conduct as her lawfully faultless husband,” Buchanan’s attorney, Randy Richards, wrote in a motion to find the lewdness law unconstitutional, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Tilli Buchanan is being singled out for prosecution solely on the basis of sex.”

A 2019 Fort Collins, Colorado, ruling in the 10th US Circuit Court, which includes Utah, allows women to  bare their breasts in public. West Valley prosecutors say the court’s ruling does not override Utah’s state ordinance.

Buchanan is expected to appear in court on November 19.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate