Unwanted touch — what is it and can you defend against it?

Unwanted touch is a problem that affects many people. What is it and how can you defend against it?

[Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 from Pexels]

It can happen anywhere — at a party, at a family gathering, on public transportation. It can affect anyone — regardless of gender or age, although young women are among the most vulnerable. Unfortunately in our society there is still consent for unwanted touch. Some people do not notice the problem or underestimate it. They do not realize how it can affect people who have experienced it. And that there are definitely (too) many of them.

Numerous comments, which appeared under the post, prove that such behavior is… common. Surely many of you could quote a few such situations — from your own experience or heard from women close to you.

And it’s hard to believe that in 2022 we still have to face something like unwanted touching, that someone usurps the right to touch another person (often a stranger) without first asking for permission. It really is time to stop this. What can we do? How can we defend ourselves?

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Unwanted touch — what is it?

What exactly is unwanted touch? First of all it has to be emphasized that it is a form of violence. It can occur in close relationships and also, a little less often, in the case of strangers. Unwanted touching should be defined as a situation in which someone violates physical as well as psychological boundaries of the other person.

It is simply a touch that we do not want, a situation in which someone violates the bodily as well as psychological boundaries of the other person, so it is a kind of violence. Most often such violence happens in close, intimate relationships, but unwanted touching can also occur to strangers, for example, when someone rubs against us on the bus.

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Unwanted touch is violence. How does it affect people who have experienced it?

Like other forms of violence, unwanted touch can negatively affect the person who experiences it. According to an expert, this type of behavior can lead to sleep problems, trauma, anxiety, as well as difficulty experiencing pleasure from touch in the future (including sex and intimacy).

Such behavior is violence, and violence hurts. Each and every one of us has the right to decide for ourselves and no one can treat us like objects. Touching without consent, groping, rape are crimes. These are traumatic experiences whose effects can be felt for a very long time, years, decades. They can affect many aspects of life, from causing sleep problems to anxiety to difficulty enjoying sex and intimacy. I must add, however, that not all people face these effects after such an experience. Lack of major difficulties does not mean that there was no violence.

Reaction to this kind of violence is very individual. It should not be commented on or compared to what other people — in a similar situation — went through or how they behaved. In addition, beware of opinions that the victim of unwanted touching is “exaggerating”.

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Unwanted touch — how can you defend yourself against this form of violence?

We already know what unwanted touching is and how it can affect the person who has experienced it. Now it is worthwhile to find out how one can defend against it. We can always say “no” and if that is not enough, we can react more strongly or ask a third person for help. Remember that each person has the right to ask for help. There is nothing wrong with that.

Whenever someone does something to us that we don’t want, we have the right to defend ourselves, e.g. by saying a firm “stop” or “no” or by reacting much more forcefully if we feel up to it. It is not necessary to stay in confrontation with the violent person, getting out of the situation as soon as possible is also a good option and you don’t have to explain yourself. We can ask third parties for help. Afterwards, we may experience feelings of shock, anger, embarrassment. This is understandable and any of these emotions are okay. It is important to remember that violence is never the fault of the person who experienced it.

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That’s not all. You can inform the police about situations in which you have experienced unwanted touching. Moreover, there are telephone help lines for people experiencing violence as well as perpetrators. There you can get the support you need and feel safe at the same time.

You can report any incident to the police. There are also many organizations that will help you.

Of course, this kind of event may be accompanied by various emotions and shock. Therefore, a person who has experienced unwanted touching may not have the strength to react. However, if we are witnesses of violence, we should not and should not be indifferent. What can we do in such a situation? How to react?

First of all, we should certainly react at all, any reaction is better than no reaction at all, because ignoring violence allows it to continue and grow. We can address the attacker directly. It is also worth asking the person we want to support if everything is alright, if he or she needs anything. We can offer, for example, to spend time with this person, to help him or her find a phone number of an anti-violence organization, to go together to the police, if we can really do that. Support can be difficult, and you should know your limits in this role as well. A person who observes violence from the sidelines, especially against loved ones, may need help themselves.

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