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A Law that Says No Doesn’t Necessarily Mean No

Consent. Despite how clear it should be that no means no, somehow we remain fuzzy on consent when it comes to the topic of sexual assault. In 1979, for example, North Carolina’s Supreme Court made a ruling that rape cannot occur if the woman at first consented to sex, even if she wanted to stop at a later point. This disturbing ruling still stands.

According to NBC News, this 1979 case occurred after a woman said her date threatened to kill her if she didn’t have sex with him. Despite this, the court still decided that “if the actual penetration is accomplished with the woman’s consent, the accused is not guilty of rape, although he may be guilty of another crime because of his subsequent actions.”

The legal loophole came back to light after another woman, Amy Guy, came forward to talk about an incident that occurred in December in which her estranged husband raped and assaulted her. Guy told WRAL, “Since he was getting angry, 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.” She also shared that “he [became] violent with her, and he wouldn’t end their sexual encounter even though she begged him to stop.”

Guy’s estranged husband was only formally charged with misdemeanor assault because of the aforementioned 1979 Supreme Court ruling. Guy recalls, “I was devastated. I didn’t understand how that could be because I knew I had been raped. I don’t understand how the law can say that I wasn’t.”

Luckily, state lawmakers like Senator Jeff Jackson are working on a bill that could change the law before the legislative session wraps up in June. This bill would essentially give the power of consent back to a woman even after sexual intercourse has begun, and thus make it clear that she can withdraw consent at any time. Jackson said, “North Carolina is the only state in the country where no doesn’t really mean no.” The senator also made sure to note that if the bill did not make it through this round, he would make sure to re-file it next year.

As for Amy Guy, she knows that the bill cannot help her personally, but still hopes that it will give other women the security and protection that they need. As she put it in her interview with WRAL,”I hope we can change the law. It’s not right.”

No should always mean no, no matter when it is said.

Featured Image by Mizrak on Flickr
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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