Outrage in Italy as Judge’s Ruling Downplays Unwanted Touching Duration

A recent ruling by a judge in Italy has sparked widespread outrage and prompted an unusual form of protest. The ruling stated that unwanted touching lasting less than 10 seconds does not constitute a crime. The controversial decision led to the acquittal of a man who admitted to inappropriately touching a schoolgirl, claiming it was a joke. 

In response, both men and women throughout Italy have taken to social media platforms like Instagram, and TikTok to express their discontent. They are sharing unsettling videos where they maintain a stern expression while groping their own chests and breasts, with a countdown timer displayed in the background. 

These videos, often accompanied by hashtags such as #10secondi or “palpata breve” (Italian for “a brief groping”), aim to highlight the distressing length of time that 10 seconds can be, particularly in the context of a sexual assault. 

The ruling arose from the case of Antonio Avola, a 66-year-old caretaker at a high school in Rome. Avola openly admitted to groping a 17-year-old female student in a school stairwell. However, he defended his actions as a joke. In April 2022, he approached the girl from behind, and sexually assaulted her. When the girl reacted in shock, Avola allegedly told her, “Love, you know I was joking.”

Despite the public prosecutor’s request for a nearly four-year prison sentence and a conviction for sexual assault, the judge dismissed the charges and declared Avola innocent. The judge’s reasoning was that the act did not qualify as a crime since it lasted less than 10 seconds. 

The protest videos began with White Lotus actor Paolo Camilli, who was among the first to share a 10-second video accompanied by a countdown timer. Influencers and other prominent figures quickly followed the idea. After the time concludes in these videos, the participants express their dissatisfaction with the ruling, emphasizing that no one has the right to touch another person without consent, regardless of the duration. 

The victim at the center of the case expressed her outrage at the ruling. She told Corriere della Sera, “The judges ruled that he was joking? Well, it was no joke to me. The caretaker came up from behind without saying anything. He put his hands down my trousers and inside my underwear. He groped my bottom. Then, he pulled me up hurting my private parts. For me, this is not a joke. This is not how an old man should ‘joke’ with a teenager. That handful of seconds was more than enough for the caretaker to make me feel his hands on me.”

The videos shared on social media platforms in Italy serve as a powerful collective response to the judge’s ruling, highlighting the need to protect individuals from any form of unwanted touching, regardless of its duration. The protesters are determined to raise awareness and promote a safer society for all. 

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