According to an outdated set of laws in North Carolina, a man or woman cannot legally claim to have been raped, if, at any point, they consented to sex with their partner.
This backwards law has had a detrimental effect on more than one legitimate rape case, allowing perpetrators of violent, violating crimes to escape punishment on a confusing technicality.
Thanks to current laws in the state, if a person initially granted consent for a sexual act, that consent cannot be revoked, in the eyes of the law, for the remainder of the act. Simply, by consenting at one moment, a participant is then trapped in the intercourse with no recourse.
The precedent was set in a 1979 state supreme court ruling which established the rules of consent. That ruling has never been overturned, resulting in a lack of justice for many victims.
“North Carolina woman, Amy Guy, … was estranged from her husband when he showed up unannounced at her new home and demanded she sleep with him. Her husband had been violent in the past, Guy said, so she consented. When he began to hurt her, she told him to stop. He did not.”
Guy pursued felony rape charges against her husband, but because of the established ruling, her husband pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge. Guy is just one of many women and men who have faced legal hurdles thanks to existing law.
Simply, it must be changed.
State Senator Jeff Jackson has introduced legislation which could amend the law to be more accurate, an action inspired by his previous career as a criminal prosecutor.
In a statement announcing the legislation, Jackson explained,
“North Carolina is the only state in the country where no doesn’t really mean no. We have a clear ethical obligation to fix this obvious defect in our rape law.”
The legislation will hopefully be a slam-dunk. After all, what argument could possibly be made to argue that it should remain as un-encompassing and restrictive as it is now? Most sane people believe that we are ultimately both responsible for and allowed to decide what happens with our own bodies, our own lives.
If victims in North Carolina are being denied justice because of a badly written law in need of amending, then fixing that law should be as simple as it can be.