A court ruling that found a school janitor not guilty of groping a student because the act only lasted less than 10 seconds has sparked outrage in Italy.
In their decision, the judges of the fifth criminal section of the Court of Rome said they acquitted the accused, a 66-year-old man according to Italian state broadcaster RAI, of sexual assault because the whole thing lasted “about five to ten seconds.”
In her testimony, the then 17-year-old girl, according to RAI, said the act happened in April 2022 as she was climbing the staircase at school with a friend.
She testified that she pulled up her trousers and felt a hand tucked inside them, under her briefs, touching her buttocks, according to the judgment, issued July 6.
“Love, you know I was joking,” the janitor said, according to the teenager’s testimony mentioned in the judgment.
During the trial, the janitor admitted that he had touched the student but that he had done it “as a joke.”
The judges accepted the defense’s argument that the act was meant to be a “clumsy joke” without “libidinous intent” towards the girl.
The decision caused outrage among students and sparked a viral trend on social media.
A local union representing high school students, ‘Rete degli Studenti Medi del Lazio,’ said on Facebook that “this is not a joke, there is nothing funny about it.”
“It is unacceptable that we cannot feel protected at school. Once again, the patriarchal system has won, with the tacit support of institutions and politics. This model does not represent us, we will always be on the other side of the fence, for a safe society based on respect,” they said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Italians have taken to Instagram and TikTok to post videos of themselves touching a sensitive part of their body for 10 seconds, marked by a timer, in an attempt to show that it actually is a fairly long period which can make people uncomfortable and change a person’s life. Accompanying the media are the hashtags #10secondi and #palpatabreve (brief groping).
Among those to take to social media were “The White Lotus” actor Paolo Camilli, who posted a video with the caption “shouldn’t the state protect us?” on his Instagram account.