Fury in Italy as judge clears man of groping an air hostess because the 20 seconds it took her to react to the ‘sexual assault’ was ‘too long’

  • Raffaele Meola was accused of sexually assaulting the woman in March 2018

A judge has sparked fury in Italy for clearing a man of groping an air hostess because the 20 seconds it took her to react to the alleged attack was ‘too long’.

Raffaele Meola, who was a trade union official at the time, was accused of sexually assaulting the woman in March 2018.

The airline worker reportedly went to Mr Meola’s offices in Malpensa, northern Italy, to seek help with an industrial dispute.

The Milan Court of Appeal acquitted Mr Meola of the alleged sexual violence after a previous trial in 2022 also cleared him on similar grounds – with the verdict then suggesting that the woman’s reaction to the alleged assault was not quick enough.

Women’s rights campaigners and the woman’s legal team have slammed the outcome as putting the clock back decades, and have vowed to fight it.

The airline worker reportedly went to Raffaele Meola’s offices to seek help with an industrial dispute

Her lawyer said following the verdict: ‘We will appeal to the Supreme Court because this sentence takes us back 30 years.

They added that it went against Supreme Court precedent which ‘for over ten years stated that a sexual act, carried out in a sudden manner without ascertaining the woman’s consent, is a crime of sexual violence and must be judged as such.’

The president of the judging panel, Nicoletta Guerrero, said that ‘the victim was believed’ but that there had been insufficient evidence to prove the allegations.

During the alleged assault, the previous trial reportedly heard, Mr Meola was standing behind the woman when he put his hands on her.

He was said to have touched, kissed and massaged her while the woman, for some thirty seconds, ‘continued to browse and read the documents without expressing dissent’.

The court heard that the woman’s ‘reaction time’ would have led Mr Meola to ‘misperceive his colleague’s will,’ il Fatto Quotidiano reported at the time. 

The Milan Court of Appeal acquitted Mr Meola of the alleged sexual violence after a previous trial in 2022 also cleared him. Pictured: File image shows Milan Court of Justice

The Milan Court of Appeal acquitted Mr Meola of the alleged sexual violence after a previous trial in 2022 also cleared him. Pictured: File image shows Milan Court of Justice

Attorney Teresa Manente responded to the 2022 verdict saying it was ‘imbued with sexist prejudices, once again placing the responsibility for the crime on the woman’.

Speaking with Corriere Della Sera, the alleged victim responded to the previous verdict: ‘Doesn’t a woman have the right to remain petrified and paralyzed in the face of harassment?’

Elisa Ercoli, president of women’s rights group Differenza donna, said the most recent verdict proves that Italy’s sexual assault laws ’cause serious and continuous institutional violence’ and called for an ‘urgent’ overhaul of them.

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