Changing consent laws in North Carolina

According to a 2017 NPR article, North Carolina is the only state in America where no may not always mean no when it comes to consent. State law says that a woman may not legally withdraw consent after the sex act has begun if she consented in the beginning. This stems from a ruling in 1979 which dictated what legally counts as consent in the state.

Recent cases in the state have compelled lawmakers to reconsider whether or not this line reflects the reality of modern-day relationships. In one instance, a woman’s estranged husband showed up at her apartment. He was drunk and demanded that she have intercourse with him.

She reportedly submitted to his demands because she felt he might become violent if she did not. He became violent anyway, at which point, she begged him to stop. He did not. He originally got charged with second-degree rape but then served a 10-month sentence for misdemeanor assault instead because of the 1979 ruling.

Years later, CNN reports that the loophole in the North Carolina consent laws remains open. This is in spite of multiple attempts to introduce a bill that could make it legally possible for women to withdraw consent after the sex act has begun. The bill does have bipartisan support but the deadline for addressing it passed. It can only pass this year if lawmakers find a way to add it as an amendment to another bill.

It is not clear if lawmakers will attempt to make any new changes to the consent laws this year. What is certain is that how many sexual assault and rape cases are treated may change once those changes take effect.