Italians outraged after judge clears caretaker of groping student as it lasted 'under 10 seconds'

The judge ruled that the caretaker had only groped the female student briefly, which did not constitute an offence.

Daniel Seow | July 14, 2023, 06:13 PM

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After an Italian judge let off a caretaker for groping a school girl because it lasted less than 10 seconds, young people in the country have taken to social media to express their outrage.

Their method of protest -- posting 10-second videos showing themselves touching intimate areas, to indicate how long that actually is.

The incident

The incident involved a 17-year-old female student at a high school in Rome.

In April 2022, she was walking up a staircase to class with a friend, when she felt her trousers fall from her waist, before a hand touched her buttocks and grabbed her underwear, according to the BBC.

When she turned around, the man remarked, "Love, you know I was joking."

The man, 66-year-old caretaker Antonio Avola, was subsequently reported to the police. He later confessed that he had groped her, but maintained it was a joke.

Avola was put on trial for charges of sexual assault, with prosecutors seeking a three-and-a-half year jail term.

However, the judge ruled that the grope, which lasted “between five and 10 seconds”, was too short to constitute a crime, reported the Guardian.

The judge added that it was doubtful if Avola had intended to molest her, and deemed the act a "brief and awkward manoeuvre without lust".

10-second videos on social media

After the ruling, numerous Italian users on social media put up videos of themselves touching intimate body parts while staring silently at the camera, typically with a timer that counts down from 10 seconds.

Accompanying the videos are the hashtags "palpata breve" (a brief groping) or "10secondi" (10 seconds), which are currently trending on TikTok and Instagram in Italy.

And while the clips may be uncomfortable to watch, they demonstrate how long 10 seconds can feel.

One of the first to post a 10-second video was Paolo Camili, an Italian actor in "The White Lotus" television series.

The trend picked up among other Italian social media users, both men and women alike, with the protesters usually criticising the ruling at the end of the video.

Influencer Francesco Cicconetti wrote on Instagram, "Who decides that 10 seconds is not a long time? Who times the seconds, while you're being harassed?"

"Men don't have the right to touch women's bodies, not even for a second - let alone five or 10."

Previous controversial rulings

This is not the first time Italian judges have been criticised for controversial rulings on sexual assault cases.

In 2022, an Italian court acquitted a man of rape on the grounds that the woman leaving her toilet door open was an “invitation” and “gave him hope”.

In 2017, a panel of three female judges in Ancona cleared two men of rape charges, partly because they considered the alleged victim “too masculine” to be an attractive target.

This ruling was scrapped two years later, when Italy’s highest appeals court ordered a retrial.

And in February 2017, a court in Turin dropped rape charges against a man because the alleged victim did not scream loud enough.

Top images from Instagram / Paolo Camilli on TikTok.