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Groping Is a Posh Word for Assault

24/09/2014 17:07 BST | Updated 24/11/2014 10:59 GMT

So after two court cases and endless column inches, Dave Lee Travis, the eerily hairy icon of 1970s network radio, is convicted of an appalling assault on a female television researcher. Congratulations to the jury for voting overwhelmingly to convict this man. Not that I have a personal gripe with The Hairy Cornflake, as he was known whilst hosting the Radio 1 breakfast show. It's because it finally lays to rest this idea that groping or any unwarranted physical contact from a stranger, colleague or friend is anything less than a serious sexual assault.

Tactility is one of the most endearing human qualities. Most of my favourite people are tactile; it's a sign of friendship, closeness, intimacy, trust. It's also comforting and a powerful form of communication when words just don't cut it. And on a friendship level, it isn't sexual. It's not always authentic, I should add. I work in the media, so everyone hugs everyone all the time, even if they're about to fire you.

But DLT, and to a greater extent Rolf Harris and Max Clifford, have inflicted a far more subtle and pernicious form of tactility on their victims. It's a perversion of what tactility is, and is a moral fig leaf for what is actually happening - an attack. It's usually characterised as friendly and jovial; the physical equivalent of banter. And anyone looking at the online trolling of Andy Murray and the footballer Mario Balotelli this week will see how the word banter has been taken to an almost criminal level.

One of the few positive things to come out of the DLT case is that it should now be widely understood that to grab or seize someone in any physical way under the guise of humour or playfulness is completely unacceptable. And it should be understood that this behaviour is the first rung on the ladder of sexual assault. Mercifully DLT didn't go any further, which is why he may evade a custodial sentence. However, the other aforementioned celebrities did go further. And they'll be enjoying Her Majesty's finest bed and board for a good while to come as a result. But this isn't about celebrities. DLT's fame is a red herring.

Men and occasionally women too, in all walks of life, will use whatever small amount of power they have to get away with behaviour like this. A female friend of mine working as a waitress in central London recently left a restaurant whose manager's hands were 'everywhere'; not just with her, but with others too. As is so often the case, it was characterised as 'a bit of fun' and supposedly typical of his high spirited, theatrical nature. Well it's none of those things. It's an assault, and a clever a form of control, with a sexual hue. And the problem is that if tolerated, it can lead to further blurred boundaries, and worse behaviour. Most people put up with it on a daily basis because they don't want to lose their job, or if it's in a social context, because they don't want to be seen as a prude or lacking a sense of humour. It's the same impulse that's supposed to make Andy Murray accept callous comments tweeted to him about the Dunblane tragedy as a bit of 'harmless joshing'. None of this is harmless. None of it is joshing.

Ultimately, your body is your property and yours alone. It has boundaries which are defined and there to be protected. This week the High Court did just that.