Groping is a form of sexual harassment that typically consists of physical touching of inappropriate areas on another person’s body without his or her consent. This type of touching can be grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit, and may lead to jail time. Though the term can also be used to refer to inappropriate or unnecessary public displays of affection between consenting adults, this type of behavior is more properly termed fondling, as it is wanted by both people involved. Groping is generally considered inappropriate in most cultures, and in some areas has become a major public concern.
Though different actions can be considered groping, this type of behavior usually consists of one person touching someone else in a way that is inappropriate and unsolicited. While touching a person who does not wish to be touched is generally considered rude or impolite, groping often involves areas of a person’s body that are considered private or sexual in nature. Touching of women’s breasts, for example, or grabbing of the legs, buttocks, and groin of both men and women is often considered groping.
Role of Consent
The consent of the person being touched is one of the main aspects of groping. If a person being touched is threatened, drunk, asleep, or otherwise unable to consent to the touching, then it is considered illegal. This is true even if the person doing the touching is drunk or not fully in control of his or her actions. Additionally, the person being touched does not have to specifically say that he or she doesn't want to be touched before it happens, especially if the context is clearly non-sexual. If in doubt, it's always better to get explicit consent before touching.
The penalties for groping vary by jurisdiction and according to how it is classified. In many areas of the US, it is seen as a type of sexual battery and can be punishable by a fine or jail time. It can be seen as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the area, duration, and type of touching involved. If a person performs other unwanted sexual activities at the same time, like flashing or frotteurism — which involves rubbing against an unconsenting person — he or she will usually face a harsher penalty. This type of behavior can also contribute to a hostile work environment, and most workplaces consider it grounds for dismissal, particularly if done repeatedly.
In several countries, including Japan, Italy, and India, groping is considered a social problem. Women are particularly at risk, but men experience it as well. This type of behavior often happens in crowded areas, like city streets, subways, and trains, and people of certain ages or genders may be targeted, depending on the area. For instance, students are often at risk of being groped on subways in Japan. Countries with this type of problem take a number of measures to discourage it, including public awareness campaigns, gender-specific public transportation cars, and harsh legal penalties.