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NC Lawmakers Pass Bill Supporting Right to Revoke Consent


Monday, November 4, 2019   

RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers have voted unanimously to close legal loopholes related to consent and sexual assault. The loopholes made North Carolina one of the few states in the country where cases of rape that initially began with consent, or that involved voluntary use of alcohol or drugs, could not be prosecuted.

Investigative reporter for Carolina Public Press Kate Martin analyzed four-and-a-half years’ worth of state court data on sexual assault defendants. She said what she found was eye-opening.

"Well, after looking at the data for several months, we concluded that fewer than one in four people charged with sexual assault are eventually convicted,” Martin said. “And of those people who are not convicted, the defense might be that the act started with consent."

According to court data, among the approximately 1,000 people charged with sexual assault within that 4.5 year time frame, just 2% were convicted. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to sign SB 199 into law.

Martin said she spoke with many prosecuting attorneys who explained how the consent loopholes lessened the odds of attaining justice for victims.

"I heard situations directly from prosecutors who said if a victim came to them and they reported a sexual assault and they explained the situation, that if the act started with consent and ended with a withdrawal of consent, then they felt like their hands were tied and they couldn't prosecute somebody,” she said.

Laura Palumbo, communications director with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said even in the “Me-Too era,” there's a gap in the public understanding of what consent means. She said that's because issues surrounding sexual consent are not typically taught in schools or through other types of training.

"Some of what is most important to understand about consent is that it is something that is time-specific,” Palumbo said. “So, you may consent to sexual activity with a partner at a specific time and on another occasion; that does not mean that you've consented to anything in the future. And, consent can be withdrawn at any time."

Between 2018 and 2019, nearly 25,000 people in North Carolina reached out to a crisis center for help related to sexual assault, according to statistics by the NC Council for Women and Youth.

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