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Minnesota Legislature

Grabbing clothing over buttocks could result in charges if exclusion erased

It was Nov. 4, 2017, and Jessica Goodwin and her five children were waiting outside a café at a fitness center; her husband was clearing the table.

“A man walked up behind me and fully groped my buttocks,” she wrote in a letter shared Wednesday with the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division. “He continued to walk past, only glancing back for a second to smirk at me and continued to walk towards the exit.”

The man, who also groped four other women that day, could only be charged with one count of disorderly conduct because it is not illegal under Minnesota’s fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct code to intentionally touch the clothing “covering the immediate area of the buttocks.”

Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein presents HF74 to the House public safety division Jan. 30. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Sponsored by Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL-New Brighton), HF74 would eliminate the exclusion and criminalize the activity. A first-time violation would be a gross misdemeanor.

The bill was held over by the division for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Sponsored by Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), SF22, the companion bill, awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

This was not Goodwin’s first experience with sexual assault. “I can tell you that being groped on the buttocks is just as demeaning, violating and traumatizing as the other forms of assault I have endured,” she wrote. “But our law doesn’t reflect that sentiment.”

We need to send a message to perpetrators that this is not acceptable and you’ll be held to the fullest extent of the law, Kunesh-Podein said.

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