North Carolina made national headlines last month after news outlets highlighted a law which exempted rapists from charges if the other party withdrew consent after giving it. Unfortunately, it's only one example of the many rape laws across the country with loopholes that essentially let people get away with rape and sexual assault.
There are laws in certain states that have failed to keep up with the times, and to this day, they are used against survivors seeking justice. It's important to understand the ins and outs of this issue. Laws can be rewritten, changed, and improved, but elected representatives must be put under pressure to do so.
North Carolina, for example, saw huge blowback after passing the anti-LGBTQ bill SB2, which policed transgender people's bathroom access. The same blowback has to happen around legislation that make it difficult to convict rapists.
In North Carolina, there is pressure from the public to change the status quo around the consent law. Some 62,000 people have signed a petition asking the legislature to act. It didn't. Now it's likely not to be amended until 2018 at the earliest. But in other states across the country, there are laws that need to be changed, too. Here are areas to research and focus on when you talk to your state senators and representatives about needed changes to rape legislation.
Allowing Rape Kits To Go Untested
This is a problem that stretches across state lines. Rape kits are not tested quickly enough. There are not enough resources allocated for their processing, and so they sit in storage, gathering mold in some cases. In Michigan, more funding was given in order to test the kits, and it opened up a whole new realm of possibility when it comes to convictions.
Some states, like North Carolina, don't even know how many kits there are in the backlog. The state attorney general, Josh Stein, told AP:
Once we know how many untested kits there are around the state and how many of them are testable, we will make a plan and seek the resources to get them tested.
If laws required the kits be processed in a timely fashion and provided funding, prosecutions of rapists would be much more successful.
Statutes Of Limitations
This is another area where lots of work must be done. In a majority of states, there are statutes of limitations on prosecuting rape. According to Mother Jones, these range from three years to 10, 15, or 30. But as we've seen with rape cases in the past, this is not always sufficient. Especially when children are raped or sexually assaulted, the victims do not always come forward as quickly as the law prescribes.
There has been forward movement in this respect. After Bill Cosby was accused of rape by a dozens of women (allegations he has repeatedly denied), some state legislatures have started to move on the law. Six states have gotten rid of their laws or lengthened the statue of limitation in the last few years, including Nevada, California, and Colorado, the New York Times reported.
Being More Lenient In Assault Cases Involving Alcohol
In a shocking decision by Oklahoma's State Supreme Court in 2016, a victim failed to see justice because the accused allegedly assaulted her only while she was unconscious. The court wrote:
Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation ... We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.
The state of Oklahoma has since closed this loophole in their law. But nationwide, the difficulty in prosecuting a rape continues if alcohol is involved. Many courts want to see evidence of a physical struggle as opposed to the simple lack of consent.
In California, sentences were reduced in such situations until there was such uproar surrounding the Brock Turner case. Laws were amended in California to expand the definition of rape and increase penalties in the case of intoxication or unconsciousness. These changes must be made proactively nationally — not when there's another terrible example to motivate a legislature. All rape laws must be strengthened to make it clear once and for all that if consent is not given, rape is rape.
Treating Rape By A Spouse Differently
In Ohio, if a man drugs and rapes his spouse, he cannot be prosecuted. That's right. And this is just one of many states that sees a double standard when the rapist is the victim's husband. According to The Independent, some 13 states have legislation that treats such rapes differently. In Ohio law, a rape within a marriage must include "force or the threat of force" for it to be prosecuted as such.
In the years to come, be vocal with your local representatives to make sure that these kind of legal loopholes and criminal justice system faults are stricken from the books wherever you live. It might be 2017, but some rape laws sound like they come from the Stone Age. Let your state senators and representatives know that is not OK.