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Italian Court Dismisses Harassment Case: 10 Seconds are not Enough


On July 12, 2022, Antonio Avola, a 66-year-old janitor at the Cine Tv Roberto Rosellini high school (Rome, Italy), touched a 17-year-old student’s buttocks as she was walking up the stairs. According to the girl’s account, Avola slipped his hands under her pants and undergarments, grabbing her glutes. Startled, she was momentarily lifted two centimetres off the ground by the janitor. Upon turning around and recognizing Avola, she silently walked away, unable to speak. The young woman further asserts that the janitor run after her, remarking “Love, you know I was kidding.”


The teenager reported Avola to the police, accusing him of sexual harassment. A witness, the adolescent’s friend, supported her claims. During the process, Avola admitted to touching the girl but denied slipping his hands under her pants. He also stated that the whole incident was a joke. As reported by the Quotidiano, the judges found the girl’s version of the story to be credible.


However, the court did not accept the prosecution's argument, which had requested a sentence of three and a half years imprisonment for the defendant. The judges stated that "the act does not constitute a crime,” because it lasted only between five and ten seconds, according to the victim’s account. Based on the duration of the incident, the court concluded that Avola did not intend on molesting the minor.


The judges described the entire incident as “non-sexual.” They also suggested that the groping might have resulted from a “clumsy manoeuvre” on Avola’s part, particularly since it occurred while both individuals were in motion. The court further pointed out that Avola’s decision to approach the girl after the incident supported the notion that “only at the girl’s expression of discomfort did he (Avola) realise the inappropriate nature of his gesture, which went beyond his intended joke.”


The outcome of the trial received significant media attention, with many individuals questioning whether ten seconds is too long of duration for an accidental touch. Italian actor Paolo Camilli shared a video of himself touching his chest for nearly ten seconds, illustrating the length of time involved. This video format gained traction on social media, with Italian influencers and notable figures attempting to initiate a dialogue about defining harassment. 


All in all, the judges defined the incident as a clumsy mistake on the janitor’s part, stating that his intention was not sexual in nature. The public was outraged, considering it inappropriate to define the nature of the gesture on the basis of its duration. 

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