48 states have clear laws against groping, while 2 states barely have any at all
According to a certain interpretation of the law, every state has some kind of statute that allows for someone who non-consensually gropes another to be prosecuted for it.
But the problem lies in the lack of clarity in those statutes: It's not always explicitly written out that groping someone's genitals, for example, is illegal.
Instead language like "attempts by physical menace" is used to describe what is not permissible.
At the same time, groping tends to be considered a form of sexual assault, which "generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive," according to FindLaw.
The two worst states when it comes to a lack of sexual harassment laws are Mississippi and Idaho, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
In Idaho, the definition of "assault and battery" includes "intentional and unlawful touching" — which a lawyer could argue includes groping.
Then, in Mississippi — the state which uses "attempts by physical menace" to describe battery — does not have the words "sexual," "touching" or "groping" in its "crimes against the person" codes.
But in a state like California the law is unambiguous.
"Any person who touches an intimate part of another person ... and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery," California legislation outlines.
But there are also larger issues at play:Namely, there isn't a federal law against groping and perpetrators are seldom held to account — not to mention a lack of data on the crimes. It is pertinent to note that a man accused of groping several women, Donald Trump, was still elected president. In fact, he was even caught on tape bragging about it.
Jennifer Long, a former assistant district attorney in Pennsylvania who is now the executive director of AEquitas, a resource on violence against women for prosecutors, told the New York Times the crime is rarely reported and even more rarely does it actually result in a prosecution.
A laxity in punishment (it's almost always classified as a misdemeanor) and this existing lack of clarity is attributable to those who are creating legislation, according to the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment. The organization is devoted to documenting and combating street harassment worldwide.
"Verbal harassment is both the most common form of street harassment and the type that is most difficult to regulate and report," the organization said in an exhaustive document that provides details on state laws regarding sexual harassment across the country.
"This is in large part because the laws in the United States have historically been written by white, straight men, and often are written and enforced to only protect against the types of violence, harassment, and intrusion that they experience."