(Valley News Live) - It’s International Women's Day 2018 on Thursday. But many women may be surprised to learn a law against groping has one specific exclusion in the state of Minnesota. The 1988 law that made groping illegal, “does not include the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks.”
Kassidy Ronningen, a student in Moorhead, says she's been groped by a stranger before.
"We were just at a party and it happened," she said.
She didn't report it.
"I guess I didn't think it was that big of a deal,” Ronningen said, “but also nothing would be done about it."
And that's why she says she's not surprised that, according to Minnesota Statute 609.3451, which defines criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree, a certain area is excluded.
Minnesota senator, John Marty (DFL), coauthored the law 30 years ago.
"Grabbing the groin, the genitals, the breast has already been a crime...instead of saying, 'touching the clothing-covered buttocks is not a crime,’ we're saying it should be a crime," he said.
So far, legislation to get rid of the exception passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It's on the Senate floor now and still has to pass in the House before it goes to the governor.
Marty says back in 1988, the law he helped write was still huge progress.
"It was the first time we were saying, 'Groping is illegal,'" he said.
Marty says he was a coauthor, but did not play a lead role in writing it—and didn't write the exclusion.
"'Oh, boys will be boys,' that was the old attitude,” he said.
But Marty says he never thought that way. “So it's a long time after we should be cleaning these things up."
Dana Bisignani coordinates the Women’s Center at Minnesota State University in Moorhead. She says men can’t hide behind that excuse anymore.
"I've always wondered why more men weren't offended by the phrase, 'boys will be boys,' as if men are such animals that they have no ability to control themselves,” she said. “If I were a man, I'd be rather offended by that."
"But now we know better," Sen. Marty said.
This time Marty is heading the legislation to fix the omission—and says he's optimistic.
"The ‘Me Too’ movement is changing attitudes and people are listening to what women are experiencing," Marty said.
And women like Kassidy Ronningen, who've been assaulted, say it's about time.
"It should change, it shouldn't be a norm," Ronningen said.