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Groping - Is it a Sexual Crime?

Sep 30,2022

Most of us, at some point in our life, have unfortunately been groped or experienced some form of sexual harassment. Someone randomly coming and grabbing a woman's breasts in public transport, a male teacher feeling a girl's thighs, or maybe feeling a pair of palms in between your legs, are all common but unacceptable instances of sexual harassment. As per a survey, 65 percent of women and 25 percent of men reported experiencing street harassment. The prevalence of street sexual harassment has become so normal that people often ignore the gravity of the crime. As a result, even today, the majority of street sexual violence cases like groping and fondling go unreported.  

Using euphemistic language reduces the severity of the crime and makes people believe that getting groped once in a while is alright. By giving trivial names to actions with detrimental impacts, we, as a whole, ignore the gravity and close our eyes to a heinous behavior against the victims of sexual assault. Groping, as the dictionary defines it, is to feel or fondle (someone) for sexual pleasure, especially against their will, which makes it a sexual assault. Hence, as aware individuals, it is high time that we react accordingly to the crime. 

What exactly is Groping?

Groping is an action that involves touching someone's body intentionally without their consent to seek sexual pleasure or demean the other person. Touching someone with their consent during sexual activity, massage or a medical examination does not account for groping. However, when the touching takes place without the will of the victim it is called groping. Most often, hands are being used for groping the victim but forcing the body parts can also be used for groping the other person. In the case of women, body parts like breasts, inner thighs, vulva, and buttocks are the most groped body parts. On the other hand, for males, testicles, buttocks, and penis are frequently groped body parts. 

In order to get an act of touching being considered as groping, it must fulfill the below-listed four characteristics: 

  • The act has to be intentional on the part of the perpetrator

  • It must be sexual 

  • It should be a physical act 

  • The act should have taken place without the consent of the victim 

One of the major difficulties that obstruct groping from being punishable as a sexual assault is that the intentionality of the action remains always questionable. Many perpetrators tend to commit the crime in places where unintentional groping is possible like public transport. Also, it is extremely tough to figure out the sexuality of the action i.e. whether or not the perpetrator had the intent of seeking sexual pleasure from groping. 

In the US, there is no specific law that would classify groping as a sexual assault or rape. However, the criminal codes prohibit both sexual and non-sexual battery. The battery is an offense dealing with unwanted touching of a person's body. But not all unwanted touching offenses are a crime. They are required to be intentional and must be harmful and offensive in nature. Not every time is it essential that the perpetrator intends to cause harm or offense to the victim. But the intentional aspect is required to be fulfilled. On the other hand, it also has criminal law for sexual battery. Sexual Battery is an offense concerning intentionally touching a person's private parts to the victim to seek sexual pleasure or to demean or abuse the victim. 

Despite the criminal law and awareness about the crime, the normalcy about groping is so prevalent in society that the victims still find it to be a crime not grave enough to be reported. However, a number of research demonstrate that most of the time sexual harassment cases, that people tend to ignore, lead to sexual assault in the future. In order to avoid sexual violence, it is indispensable to address the severity of sexual harassment like groping, fondling, etc. 

Repercussions of committing a sexual crime

As per the law, groping is considered a crime and has legal repercussions. Any person who experiences groping can sue the perpetrator for money damages. The law differs, and with it, the punishments for the perpetrators also vary. The legal punishments also differ based on the severity of the crime committed. Sexual violence at work might lead to the firing of the employee, demotion, or even suspension. 

Sexual harassment has become ubiquitous now. Despite the continuous efforts and measures being undertaken, the prevailing conditions do not yet assure the safety of people from sexual violence. From classrooms to roads, from the workplace to even in the army, sexual violence has become a trauma for many people that have completely evolved their lives. In such circumstances, it is not only crucial but imperative to speak up against the crime. However, the triviality that we usually associate with harassing actions like groping, fondling, catcalling, etc. leads to their acceptance in society. Harassment signifies harassment, those who experience it, must speak up against it and report it. Their acceptance results in silent approval of the crime and the perpetrators, while the victims are often being questioned about experiencing sexual harassment.