NC Must Address Sexual Assault Law Deficiencies

My daughter goes to an NC university and I worry about her. I even signed her up for a self defense class before her freshman year. I knew the statistics of sexual assault on campuses are extremely high. However, I was shocked to read that “A third of female undergraduate UNC students reported sexual assault, survey found,” 10/15/19, Charlotte Observer. State laws must be improved to prosecute these crimes, and universities must do more. An Equal Rights Amendment would help long term.

Event with Feminists For All at UNC-CH, 9/27/19 Photo Credit: Gailya Paliga

The 2019 survey by the Association of American Universities reported that “nine percent of respondents said they were given a spiked drink or drugs without their knowledge before the assault.”

Universities are at fault – the statistics speak for themselves, and zero universities reported any rape kits at all in the study showing over 15,000 untested rape kits on shelves. However, NC laws are severely deficient as well. The NC legislature still hasn’t closed the legal loopholes that currently allow drugging of drinks! The bill actually passed the NC House last April, but is stuck in committee in the NC Senate. Senate leadership clearly doesn’t care that women are being roofied and raped. Or they don’t care enough to protect our undergrads by making this heinous crime illegal. There has been no movement on the bill (HB393-Modernizing sexual assault laws) in the Senate since April.

Also NC is the only state where no doesn’t always mean no – due to another loophole. Senator Jeff Jackson has filed a bill four times to close this loophole – the legislative leadership can’t claim they don’t know about the problem or know about the bill. House speaker Tim Moore is on record supporting the bill but hasn’t helped it along.

What we have here is a state where more than 75 percent of those arrested for serious sexual assault offenses are ultimately not convicted of a sexual assault charge (Carolina Public Press, 3/19) Where it’s not illegal to drug and rape women – young and old. So the police often don’t even look for the rapist. Where one in 3 undergraduate students at a flagship university has been sexually assaulted. Their parents paying thousands for that privilege while the NC General Assembly continues to put lobbyists on the UNC Board Of Governors and persecute chancellors who care about their students. (#IStandWithDan).

The NC legislature needs to do its jobs and fix those loopholes and others in our state law to allow prosecution of these heinous crimes. The bills have been languishing in committee while our daughters and sisters and mothers are attacked and often their attackers are not brought up on charges.

In the longer term, an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would help women and girls.

By making women fully equal under the law, the US could better address sexual assaults and gender violence. ERA would give both federal and state governments the power to rectify patterns and systems of discrimination.

Lori Bunton talking about Equal Rights Amendment to students at UNC-CH. Photo Credit: Gailya Paliga

Since we don’t have ERA – women need separate laws or separate amendments to safeguard basic rights – like 19th amendment to allow women to vote, which didn’t work for many women of color until decades later. And laws and policy guidelines can be rolled back by a simple act of Congress or by an extremist president. The Trump Administration proposed changes to Title IX that make campus sexual assault harder to punish while increasing burdens on black men. Trump Administration also rescinded more than 20 policy guidelines on Title IX anti-discrimination laws.

NC must modernize sexual assault laws, and close those terrible loopholes. NC could help all American women by ratifying ERA.

-Gailya Paliga
President, NC National Organization for Women


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