How to identify inappropriate touch? 

In simple terms, inappropriate touch is any touch that makes you uneasy and uncomfortable.

Most people, especially women, have found themselves being groped in public places, being brushed against by someone standing behind them, or some who even try to touch their genitals or breasts. All these instances are examples of inappropriate touch.

However, this is not all that comes under the inappropriate touch; sometimes, even people you know or work with may violate your boundaries. For example, someone attempting to hug you forcibly/ against your will can be termed inappropriate touching.

To have healthy relationships, you need to establish good boundaries. For clear boundaries, you will first have to understand the difference between good touch and bad touch, what behaviour is safe and which is not safe, appropriate and respectful to ensure positive consent. Unhealthy relationships are signified by unclear or no boundaries.

What is Positive Consent?

The phrase positive consent in relationships means to ensure that each person has the choice to participate and how they participate in a given social situation. Positive consent skills include communicating clearly with others about your boundaries on touch, play and teasing while staying aware and respecting the boundaries of others.

Consent and Boundaries

Consent is an issue that concerns and affects everyone- not just women and girls. In the simplest terms, it comes down to asking and getting permission to participate in any form of physical or intimate activity. It can also change throughout the activities and behaviours that follow.

Consent cannot be reduced to just a ‘yes’ and does not just include sexual activities. It gets complex especially if it involves a family member, someone in authority like a teacher or police etc.

We often assume that consent is required only for sexual or intimate activities, but it is extended to all sorts of behaviours. It is important to understand that our boundaries exist even outside of sex, and consent is required for anything related to our bodies.

Understanding consent is extremely important. Rape and sexual assault occur due to a lack of properly teaching and understanding of consent and boundaries. 

Inappropriate touch or touch without consent includes hugs, touches and gestures of physical nature (not necessarily sexual) that tend to make one feel uncomfortable.

How To Deal With Inappropriate Touching In Public?

If you ask someone what to do when someone touches you inappropriately in a public place- you will receive two pieces of advice. The first is to avoid public transport and the second to ignore whatever happened.

However, these are not the best solutions. This avoidant behaviour will not lead to resolving such further cases, and it just speaks of how we have as a society accepted this state of affairs. Many of us thus feel scared and ashamed to even call for help when they are groped.

If this happens to you, here is how to deal with inappropriate touching:

Stop feeling ashamed and speak up

Firstly, there is no shame in admitting someone misbehaved with you. Remember that it is never your fault that someone inappropriately touches you, and have the courage to stop anyone trying to misbehave with you or anyone else.

Raise your voice and be firm

There is no harm in calling out for help. Letting everyone know the person who tried to invade your personal space will embarrass him and make him stop immediately.

“Carry a safety pin” an advice women travelling by public transport mostly give is to carry a safety pin. If a man rubs against or touches you, quietly poke him with the pin, and he will jump back immediately.

Last but not least, inform the authorities and take action. Refuse to accept the state of things. Any unwelcome physical contact is punishable by the law, and you taking a stand against it will encourage others to do so as well.