The term “fondling” minimises sexual assault
We recently had a conversation with on twitter with Philippa Willetts about the misuse of the term fondling and how it is misused to minimise sexual assault. Not two hours later, we came across this article in the Daily Mail*:
Undertaker, 83, who fondled a woman's breasts moments before a funeral service faces jail
This is the subheading:
- Charles Ashton, a funeral director, admitted sexually assaulting woman
- Pensioner fondled kissed and fondled her breasts before funeral started
- Leeds Magistrates' Court heard behaviour was 'out of character' for him
- Ashton was previously a director of Castleford Rugby League football club
We're struggling to see how Charles Ashton's former directorship of Castleford Rugby League football club has any bearing on his conviction for sexual assault since touching a woman's breasts without permission IS sexual assault. Ashton pled guilty to touching a woman's breasts, kissing her without consent and making inappropriate comments about her breasts before a funeral which occurred in August. The article includes the usual drivel from a defence attorney: " 'It is entirely out of character for this man who its fair to say is devastated about what's happened", which, as ever, erases the victim. After all, at no point do we see a statement about the impact on the victim. His apology is to the courts for seemingly wasting their time rather than the woman he sexually assaulted.
What we do want to make perfectly clear here is that the term "fondling" is not appropriate when discussing sexual assault. It assumes a level of consent and that it is not a serious criminal offence. Touching another person in a sexual manner without consent is a serious criminal offence. Women have the right to their own bodily autonomy and to live without being touched in any way shape or form without consent. We need to start recognising that words like 'fondling' don't fully explain the seriousness of the crime which has occurred. Sexual assault is always a serious crime and we need to use language which reflects this.