North Carolina’s legislative session formally drew to a close at the end of last week, and thanks to GOP inaction, rape remains perfectly legal in the state.
But lawmakers will return to Raleigh in August and September to take care of some unresolved business, like overriding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes (Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both legislative chambers) and redrawing state legislative districts to remedy the current unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered ones. (This is how Republicans keep those veto-proof majorities.)
But one thing they’re not addressing in the upcoming sessions and just couldn’t make time for over the past few months: closing a loophole in the state’s sexual assault statutes that prevent someone from being charged with rape for continuing to engage in a sexual act after a partner revokes consent to that act. This loophole has prevented prosecutors from pursuing charges in two rape cases since December.
You read that right. Thanks to a 1979 court decision, “no” doesn’t actually mean “no” in North Carolina if you say it after you’ve already said “yes” to sex.
A Democratic state senator introduced legislation in April to remedy this very real but eminently fixable problem. The bill is simple and straightforward, and you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand it. In fact, why take my word for it?
§ 14-27.37. Withdrawal of consent.
a) A person who initially consents to vaginal intercourse is not deemed to have consented to any penetration that occurs after the person withdraws consent during the course of that vaginal intercourse. A person may withdraw consent to engage in vaginal intercourse in the middle of the intercourse, even if the actual penetration is accomplished with consent and even if there is only one act of vaginal intercourse. The withdrawal of consent must be clearly communicated in a way that a reasonable person would understand to constitute withdrawal of consent.
(b) A defendant who continues the act of vaginal intercourse after consent is withdrawn is deemed to have committed the act of vaginal intercourse by force and against the will of the other person.
See? Just 122 words. Not complicated.