'How many are 10 seconds?' Outrage in Italy over the acquittal of a man for "brief" touching

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A court in Italy has acquitted a janitor at a secondary school in Rome who groped a 17-year-old student on the grounds that the assault did not "last long enough".

The Rome Prosecutor's Office asked for a prison sentence of three and a half years, but the 66-year-old man was acquitted this week of sexual assault charges. According to the judges, what happened "does not constitute a crime" because it lasted less than ten seconds.

The events occurred on April 12, 2022 when the student was going up some stairs at the institute, accompanied by a classmate, and felt her pants fall down, a hand touching her buttocks and grabbing her underwear. Turning to see what was happening, the man simply said that he was joking.

The Prosecutor's Office requested a prison sentence of three and a half years, but this week the man has been acquitted of charges of sexual assault.

Wave of outrage on social media

The Court has considered that the janitor Antonio Avola should be acquitted of all charges of sexual violence because, according to the student, they occurred, but without the subjective element, that is, without Avola's intention to bother the young woman. The defendant also admitted to having touched the student without her consent, but said it was a joke.

From the court ruling they used the Italian expression brief palpata (a brief touching), an expression that hundreds of users of social networks have appropriated to denounce this case that has become a trend on Instagram and TikTok in Italy, along with the hashtag #10secondi.

Many citizens in Italy have expressed their outrage at a sentence that they consider sexist and unfair. For this reason, hundreds of people have published videos looking at the camera in silence and touching their breasts or their private parts for 10 seconds to demonstrate how violent it is when someone invades your body against your will.

Some of the well-known faces that have wanted to publicly denounce this sentence have been the Italian actor Paolo Camili (White Lotus) or the influencer Chiara Ferragni, one of the best-known faces in the country with a total of 29.4 million followers on Instagram alone.

After this wave of solidarity, the Prosecutor's Office can still appeal the sentence because "if it doesn't, I will experience it as a new betrayal" the young woman assured the media Corriere della Sera.

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