Italian Court: Groping of girl deemed acceptable if under 10 seconds

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    Protests and demonstrations are erupting in Italy as a result of a judge’s decision to acquit a man of sexual harassment charges against a teenager, citing that the groping incident lasted only a few seconds. The survivor, a 17-year-old student, took legal action against Antonio Avola, a 66-year-old caretaker who groped her while she was walking up the stairs with a friend at school in April 2022.

    The survivor recounted that her trousers slipped down, and as she was pulling them up, she felt a hand touch her buttocks and grab her underwear, lifting her slightly. When she confronted Avola about the harassment, he dismissed it as a joke. Avola admitted to the groping in court but claimed it was intended as a humorous act. Prosecutors sought a three-year prison sentence if he was found guilty.

    However, the judge ruled that the incident could not be classified as harassment since it lasted only “between five to 10 seconds” and was too brief to be considered a crime. The judgment also stated that the brushing of the buttocks was likely due to Avola’s awkward maneuver, which occurred while the survivor was in motion.

    This ruling has sparked outrage among Italians, leading to protests where individuals shared 10-second videos of themselves touching their private body parts on social media using hashtags such as “palpata breve” (brief grope) and “10 secondi” (10 seconds). Paolo Camilli, an actor from ‘The White Lotus,’ expressed his disbelief in an interview with The New York Times, questioning how one could accurately measure 10 seconds while being molested. He also emphasized that 10 seconds can feel like an eternity for someone in a distressing situation.

    Influencer Francesco Cicconetti, with 200,000 followers on Instagram, strongly criticized the ruling in a video, asserting that women’s bodies are not possessions of men. He emphasized that women alone have ownership of their bodies, rejecting the idea that fathers, boyfriends, partners, sons, or brothers should control or dictate their behavior.