New North Carolina bill would modernize sexual assault laws

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Across North Carolina, a new bill filed Wednesday in Raleigh is seeking to make changes to a number of laws related to sexual assault.

The bi-partisan bill gained 56 co-sponsors in under 24 hours, garnering support from both sides of the aisle.

Thursday, 9 On Your Side spoke with victim advocates and prosecutors about House Bill 393’s significance.

“I think that all people in our community should be very proud of lawmakers who are looking at sexual assault and ensuring that the law reads clearly and fairly,” Real Crisis Intervention Executive Director Tracy Kennedy said.

House Bill 393 aims to make significant changes to our state’s sexual assault laws.

“We look forward to seeing improvements in North Carolina when it comes to sexual assault,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said what stands out to her the most was the removal of the word ‘forcible’ when it comes to classifying rape.

“Sexual assault has to do with non-consent it doesn’t have to do with bruises, weapons, and force, it has to do with one person not obtaining the consent of another person.” 

Another issue that comes up when talking about consent is intoxication.

“Many of the sexual assaults Real Crisis responds to, alcohol is involved,” Kennedy said.

The bill is seeking to clearly define what mental incapacitation looks like, intending to protect victims instead of blaming them.

“If one is intoxicated, that that adds to their vulnerability, so we are excited they are actually acknowledging that consumption of a drinkable substance is no longer a defense or shouldn’t be a defense,” Kennedy said.

The bill also clears up language related to date rape drugs.

In North Carolina, there is no clear law against drugging someone’s drink.

Pitt County District Attorney Faris Dixon said that portion of the legislation woul[d affect how that is punished, and what the level of punishment should be.

“It will provide more tools available to us,” Dixon said. “There are cases where someone places something in a drink and it cannot be prosecuted because the statute didn’t cover it, this now gives us more coverage to address those situations.”

Kennedy said lawmakers taking action benefits all.

“Victims will have more awareness of the crime, and our community will have more awareness of the crime and many victims may feel more comfortable coming forward,” Kennedy said.

Also included in the bill is an act to clarify the term ‘caretaker’ to include an adult in a dating or romantic relationship with the parent or guardian of a child.

That way, if that person abuses the child, the state can get involved.

Kennedy said if the bill gets up to 61 backers, the speaker of the house can bypass the committee and go straight to the floor.

Click here to view the full legislation.

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