It's not groping or fondling – it is sexual assault

By Laura Bates

Using euphemistic language downplays the severity of an offence and enforces a dangerous message: it isn’t a big deal, and victims won’t be taken seriously

Numerous high-profile cases of sexual violence and abuse have have been exposed in recent years, with the same words cropping up again and again: “groping”, “fondling”, “inappropriate touching”. What each of these terms usually means is sexual assault. But both in casual conversation and in the press, we will go to almost any lengths to avoid saying it.

According to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the elements of the offence of sexual assault are:

  • A person (A) intentionally touches another person (B)
  • the touching is sexual
  • (B) does not consent to the touching, and (A) does not reasonably believe that (B) consents.

The Crown Prosecution Service guidelines further clarify that “touching is widely defined and includes with any part of the body, or with anything else, and can be through clothing”. The definition is clear.

Sometimes, the reason behind a reluctance to use accurate language is more compassionate than malicious – an attempt to avoid the reality of what happens to girls and women on a regular basis. It is easier to rely on euphemistic language, such as “groping” or “fondling”, than to talk about sexual assault. But that doesn’t help, because we inadvertently end up downgrading the severity of the offence, which, in turn, helps normalise it.

Undermining sexual violen...

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  • True Catholic
    commented 2018-11-21 05:57:11 -0600
    The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, under the leadership of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer and chancellor Father Steve Angi, have perfected this art of deception. The sexual actions of Father Bacon against our family are described as such “It does seem clear that Father Bacon ignored orders from ecclesiastical superiors to have no contact with your family, specifically your daughters”. This occurred after repeated detailed verbal and written violations were reported to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2014 and 2015. The Decree on Child Protection states if their is a “Semblance of Truth” a priest must be removed from contact with the children. The Archdiocese failed to do this for over 15 months. Father Bacon was finally removed for “Medical Leave” after more allegations were reported. He was still not isolated from contacting our children.
  • Richard Kensinger, MSW
    commented 2018-11-20 18:25:05 -0600
    The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, PA, will often use such language in their compensation fund established in 1999. They have a list they created of sexual behaviors and the stated amounts awarded to victims. Obviously, the Church will downplay the repeated criminality of sexual offenses of kids. This list is included in the state AG report.

    As a clinical psychologist, I discuss the damage done in an article on Brain Blogger. These assaults are invasions of body integrity and result in severe psychosocial trauma. The Church is much more concerned about the integrity of this global corporation.
    Rich, MSW

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