This North Carolina Rape Law Is Straight Out Of The Middle Ages

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
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A longstanding legal loophole may finally get closed – but it may not

A bizarre, outdated, and frightening law that’s been on North Carolina’s books since the late 70s has a chance to be revoked this summer, but only if the state legislature gets the job done before the end of June.

NBC News has the details of the strange law, which states that a man cannot be found guilty of rape if the woman initially consented to sex, even if she changes her mind at any point thereafter.

A recent case, in which a man who forced sex upon his estranged wife, demonstrates the damage the loophole can do. Amy Guy told NBC that she consented to sex with Jonathan Wayne Guy, because “he was getting angry [and] I figured it would be better to go ahead and agree to the sex because I figured that was the safer thing for me to do,” Guy tells the station.

While he was originally charged with rape, that was changed to a misdemeanor, thanks to North Carolina state law. Guy’s attorney, Kristopher Hilscher, says, “In another state, it would have been a rape charge. From our perspective, she was the victim of the law after she was the victim of a violent crime.”

Hilschler adds, “To me, it’s obvious the law needs to change.”

The law was passed in 1979 – as the result of a case in which a man threatened to kill his victim if she didn’t consent – and has lingered ever since, but there’s a new bill currently under consideration – Senate Bill 553 – that would finally close the loophole.

NC State Sen. Jeff Jackson, the sponsor of the new bill that has stalled in the state Senate Rules Committee, despite what Jackson called “bipartisan support,” released a statement. “North Carolina is the only state in the country where no doesn’t really mean no.”

Senate Bill 553 states: An act to provide that a person who continues to engage in intercourse after consent is withdrawn is deemed to have committed the act of intercourse by force and against the will of the other person.

This bill would allow for women to regain control no matter when they decide to say no, and for men who persist despite consent being revoked to be charged with rape.

There are a lot of frustrating aspects to this situation.

For one thing, this law is a nightmare. It probably seemed outdated and strange in 1979, and in today’s fraught, polarized political climate – in which women seem to increasingly be targeted by both criminals and congressmen – it’s downright barbaric.

For another thing, it shines more light on how broken the system seems to be. The law seems like such a no-brainer – rape is rape, no means no, 1+1=2 – it boggles the mind as to why it wouldn’t sail through the admittedly byzantine pathways that line our political processes.

Of course, North Carolina is pretty much the last place in the country one would expect political sanity after the past several years of legislated discrimination and brazen Republican power-grabbing, often at the state’s own expense.

The state has a chance to do some good with Senate Bill 553, here’s hoping they can hurry up and push that law through before the end of the month.

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