North Carolina Legislature Revokes Two Laws That Had Made It Harder To Prosecute Sexual Assault

'It’s a big win for basic decency, said State Senator Jeff Jackson.

a black and white photo of a man with a clenched fist approaching a terrified woman
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'It’s a big win for basic decency, said State Senator Jeff Jackson.

North Carolina‘s legislature has passed a bill aimed at closing two loopholes in its laws on sexual assault, The New York Times reports. Currently, the state allows a perpetrator of sexual violence to commit an act even if the victim withdraws consent once it’s started, and effectively allows rape to take place if the victim is unconscious due to consuming drugs or alcohol.

Back in March, Jay Chaudhuri, a Democratic state senator from Wake County, introduced Senate Bill 199, which was aimed specifically at sexual crimes against children. As often happens to bills as they make their way through a governing body, this particular bill was revised, expanded, and had other bills folded into it. The bill, approved this week, addressed a handful of gaps in the Tarheel State’s sexual assault laws.

Revoking Consent

In 1977, as Vice reports, a court decision in North Carolina made the state the only one in which a person could not revoke consent to a sex act once it had begun. Donnie Way had sexually assaulted a woman; however, a jury declined to convict Way of rape because the sex act had already begun but the woman begged him to stop. The case made its way all the way to the state’s Supreme Court, which effectively ruled that once a sex act has begun, it is not an act of rape even if the victim withdraws their consent.

the north carolina capitol building
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“If the actual penetration is accomplished with the woman’s consent, the accused is not guilty of rape,” the court ruled at the time.

The issue came up in March of this year when 19-year-old Aaliyah Palmer agreed to have sex with a man but tried to stop when he became violent. But she was unable to press charges against the man due to the loophole in the law.

Unconscious Victims

Another court decision, this time in 2008, deemed that a rape victim could not be said to be a victim of a crime if the sexual assault had occurred when the victim was unconscious due to their own actions, such as consuming drugs or alcohol.

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Loopholes Now Closed

In unanimous decisions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the bill passed, closing the loopholes that had made North Carolina’s sexual assault laws the subject of derision by crime-victim and women’s advocates.

“It’s a big win for basic decency,” said Jeff Jackson, an author of the bill.

The bill expected to be signed by Governor Roy Cooper.