Jessica Goodwin went to police after a man walked up behind her and groped her buttocks while she was holding her 1-year-old in Columbia Heights, Minnesota last November, the Duluth News-Tribune reported.
But the woman, who was at a fitness center when it happened, soon learned that the man’s actions weren’t against the law, the newspaper said.
That’s because she was wearing clothing when he inappropriately touched her.
Minnesota’s law on criminal sexual conduct makes an exception for the “intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks.”
The exception dates back to 1988, when lawmakers made groping illegal for the first time, the News-Tribune reported.
Lawmakers told the Pioneer Press the only explanation they could find was the idea that football coaches could get in trouble for giving players encouraging pats on the behind. They say prosecutors refer to it as the “coach’s exception.”
But some lawmakers are saying the law needs to change. A state Senate commitee on Wednesday approved getting rid of the exception, which would make grabbing the buttocks the same level of offense for groping other private parts, the Pioneer Press reported.
Offenders could face up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine for the first offense if convicted, the newspaper said. A second offense could lead to seven years behind bars.
The proposal comes after former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken was accused of grabbing a woman’s buttocks while taking a photo with her at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, CNN reported. Franken resigned in January.
Former state Sen. Dan Schoen resigned last year after allegations he grabbed a female candidate’s buttocks at a political event, the Pioneer Press reported.
Sen. Carolyn Laine, a Democrat who’s co-sponsoring the bill, told the News-Tribune that such behavior was accepted in 1988.
But in the #metoo age, it’s the “right time” for a change, she said.