Bud Kennedy

Groping not just talk; it’s a crime

I don’t understand the press either.

When someone in Hollywood talks about groping a woman, the next paragraph should be:

In California, touching another person’s intimate parts is misdemeanor battery punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine.

In Texas, it’s misdemeanor assault. If not worse.

In New York, home of a certain known person of interest, “forcible touching” is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

Pages of news coverage and hours of cable TV blabber have been devoted to what Donald Trump said in 2005 in Hollywood without one very important point:

What he is describing is a crime.

It really doesn’t matter whether anyone considers it assault.

Lawmakers already decided that.

“It’s a clear violation of a person, and we feel really strongly about that,” said Ted Rutherford of the Austin-based Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

His organization would like to upgrade the Texas punishment from a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a ticket (as an assault by “offensive contact”) to a Class A misdemeanor.

A ticket “isn’t really much of a deterrent,” Rutherford said: “We don’t think that’s enough punishment.”

If the grab or grope involved more than just a fleeting touch, Tarrant County proescutor Lloyd Whelchel said the case can become sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

“It depends what you were doing and what your intent was,” Whelchel said.

Trump said Monday he was engaging in “locker room talk.” His wife, Melania, was pregnant, and Trump was describing how other women would let him “do anything.”

I asked 30-year social worker Deborah Caddy of the Women’s Center of Tarrant County whether she has counseled women who were suddenly grabbed or groped by an acquaintance.

“Of course we have,” she said.

“It can be very invasive. It’s unwanted, unsolicited — it’s still an issue of power and control.”

She does not take it lightly.

“You don’t know someone’s past,” she said: “If it’s a victim who suffered childhood sexual abuse, it can trigger more intense trauma and send them into a flashback to the previous experience. … It’s an invasion.”

Texas writer Mary Karr, who described her unsettling childhood in The Liars’ Club, wrote in a recent New Yorker about a Ninth Avenue encounter with a nicely dressed “crotchgrabber.”

“My own pet opinion,” she wrote, “is that the guys who … grab you or constantly seek to reassert sexual possibilities in ways that make you uncomfortable aren’t just oafs. They seem to get a perverse thrill from mortifying you.”

The agency officials didn’t comment directly on Trump or his “locker room talk.”

But “you wouldn’t think you’d have to teach people not to do that,” Rutherford said.

Or say that.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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