By Athena Papakosta

The anger in Italy after a judge’s decision that “groping” lasting up to ten seconds does not constitute sexual harassment it doesn’t work. And the question is simple: who counts the seconds when they are being harassed? And since when does the duration of harassment lessen its severity?

The case concerns the complaint of a 17-year-old student that, in the spring of 2022, the janitor of her school in Rome pulled down her pants, reached through her underwear and grabbed her buttocks. The girl at that moment was climbing the stairs to the (theoretically) safe environment of her school and when she turned her gaze towards him he replied: “Honey, you know I was joking.”

Fortunately the underage student had a better sense of humor than the school superintendent who at this point is 66 years old and his name is Antonio Avola.

Despite the fact that the 66-year-old confessed to his act, he insisted before the judges that he was joking. Prosecutors were not amused and asked for a three-year prison sentence. However, the president of the court showed the 66-year-old the exit door by deciding his acquittal since, as he explained, his act against the minor “lasted between five and ten seconds” and, therefore, “was something too fleeting to constitute a crime”.

The student declared outraged speaking to the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera and emphasized that “those seconds were more than enough for me to feel the foreman’s hands on me. I’m beginning to think it was a mistake to trust the institutions.”

It has now been four years since the Ancona court decision that acquitted two men accused of raping a 22-year-old woman on the grounds that the victim was “too masculine” and today, in the country, the wave of reactions is just as intense. Its purpose is to support the 17-year-old, to stifle the decision and to grant justice in her case.

In Social Networking Media, the discussion was opened with the hashtags #10secondi (ten seconds) and #palpatabreve (short pinch).

The beginning was made by the actor of the famous series, also in our country, White Lotus, Paolo Camilli, then the entrepreneur Chiarra Ferragni and the influencer Francesco Cicconetti, who very aptly asked “who decides that 10 seconds are not are many; Who counts the seconds when they are being harassed?’

In each video, the protagonist remains silent and with one hand rubs at disputed parts of the human body while the clock counts down from ten seconds. In each of them the finding is the same: not ten seconds but even one second is enough to offend sexual dignity.

On the subject, the coordinator of the global network One Billion Rising against violence against women states that: “the court’s interpretation of what sexual harassment is is completely wrong and extremely damaging. The fact that it was funny and lasted five to ten seconds is irrelevant. It was sexual harassment and it should be treated as such.”

But it was not dealt with and the 66-year-old may still continue to laugh at his “joke” until he repeats it again but this time with the stopwatch in hand.