FAYETTEVILLE, NC - A Fayetteville woman feels spurned by a decades-old North Carolina law that rules a person can't be charged with rape even if the other person revokes consent during sex.
A bill stalled in the Senate's Rules Committee would change that.
In a Fayetteville Observer article published this week, 19-year-old Aaliyah Palmer says she was the victim of a sex crime back in January. A man pulled her into the bathroom for sex, for which she was willing. When the sex turned violent and she told the man to stop, he didn't listen.
In 1979, the NC Supreme Court ruled a person can't be charged with rape if the partner initally consented to sex, but revoke consent after sexual intercourse begins. In State Vs. Way, the court determined '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.'
“It’s really stupid,” Palmer said of the law. “If I tell you no and you kept going, that’s rape.”
The accused man involved was not named in the article because he wasn't charged with a crime. Under Senate Bill 553, sponsored by Senator Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg), anyone who failed to stop intercourse when a woman who had originally consented changed her mind, would be charged.
Jackson wants the law changed and sponsors the bill. Jackson says several women have consulted with him about having experiences similar to Palmer's.
“Legislators are hearing more and more about women who have been raped and are being denied justice because of this crazy loophole,” Jackson said. “North Carolina is the only state in U.S. where no doesn’t mean no.”
The bill is stopped in the committee and Jackson added it will likely be dead for the rest of the legislative session.
“There’s no reason for this to be partisan,” Jackson said. “It’s about doing what’s obviously right.”
North Carolina common law, which can be changed by the General Assembly, doesn't directly define what consent is.
"As far as no means no, it is an absolute," explains Sonya Desai, client services coordinator with the Guilford County Family Justice Center. "We believe it to be an absolute, so when someone says no to sex that means no."
Desai says she thinks the case law is behind the times and hopes to see some new changes to the state's common law.
"You can have consent in the beginning, but you should also be able to revoke consent once the act begins."
Timothy Stewart, an attorney in Winston-Salem says the language in the State v. Way case reading can be a little murky.
"The withdraw of consent wouldn't make the original act a rape," Stewart explains. "They don't do a very job explaining that."
But that doesn't mean the person can't be charged with something else.
Sgt. KB Johnson with the Greensboro Police Department's Family Victims Unit says they could seek charges like sexual assault, kidnapping or a weapons charge, to name a few, but it's all dependent on the case.
"If we have to use other charges to get our offender, we'll do that," he says.
He also says GPD will investigate any rape case reported to them, but it's still a tough subject.
Johnson's Unit will also work with the Family Justice Center to provide people with any resources they may need.
You can contact the Guilford County Family Justice Center at (336) 641-7233.
You can also reach out to Family Service of the Piedmont for resources. Click here for more information.