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Lawmakers approve bill to make groping a sex crime

Posted at 10:20 PM, May 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 10:56:53-04

 

A bill that would make groping a sex crime in Texas is likely headed to the governor’s desk.

Local advocates say that bill is key to preventing sexual violence. It’s an issue 6 Investigates first reported back in March.

The Texas House today approved a bill that would put in place stiffer penalties for groping. Now that the bill has cleared the Senate and the House. It has just one more step to go, but advocates say today’s actions are “a huge step forward.”

Groping currently is treated like a traffic ticket in Texas, which is one of six states in the nation where there aren’t stiffer penalties for that behavior. That could soon change.

“This is that key piece of believing the person and believing what’s happening at that very early stage,” said Kellie Addison, deputy director of the Purple Door. “We don’t want this to escalate as far as rape.”

The bill would create a new criminal offense that deals with groping. It’s called indecent assault and advocates like Addison say it’s important to stop that behavior when it happens.

“This is the opportunity to stop the victim blaming, to hold that perpetrator accountable and then hopefully prevent future violence,” Addison says.

If the bill does pass, it’s something Corpus Christi police will be ready to talk about when a report is made.

“It does allow us, especially as investigators, to explain to victims and the families even to the offenders that this is a more severe punishment than it was before.” CCPD detective Mike Manzano told KRIS 6.

If the bill passes, it would become a class a misdemeanor offense, which in Nueces County would be prosecuted by the district attorney’s office. However, advocates say the most powerful part of the bill is that groping would be classified as a sexual offense and that would help law enforcement better track perpetrators.

The House vote was unanimous with local representatives Abel Herrero and Todd Hunter voting in favor of it. Next, it will go to the governor’s desk where it will either be signed into law or vetoed.