A bill that would eliminate a key exception to the state’s definition of 5th-degree criminal sexual conduct is moving through the legislature. Inver Grove Heights Representative Regina Barr is the bill’s author. She said, “Specifically, it is expanded to include the non-consensual intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks.”

She wrote the legislation because, “When I took a look at this particular statute, I was surprised to find what was excluded from this law. And we can all make our own opinion as to why that happened. But I felt strongly that we needed to close this little loophole in the law.”

The exception was put in place by the legislature in 1988. House research analyst Jeff Diebel gave lawmakers some background on why lawmakers made the exception. “I will name names,” he said, “Senator Spear made an amendment to exclude it and he is quoted as saying, ‘I don’t want anyone to think this is proper behavior, but sometimes we must make a distinction between behavior that is improper and unsocial, and behavior that we ought to criminalize.'”

Caroline Palmer with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault told lawmakers this type of groping is not viewed with enough severity by the law and, “Maybe it’s assault, maybe it’s disorderly conduct, that is not going to match the way a victim feels when they are violated in this way.”

Palmer said they recognize how complex this issue is, “But we also recognize that for a victim who has been groped in this way it can be an act of sexual objectification and humiliation and we want to honor that in our laws.”