Even with strict and clear consent laws on the books, it's unlikely an alleged rapist will ever serve jail time for his crimes. But in North Carolina, it's all but guaranteed rapists will walk free thanks to a state law that turns consent into a binding contract.
According to the Fayetteville Observer, the law states that once someone agrees to sex, they can't withdraw their consent — even if they say no later on.
State Sen. Jeff Jackson is trying to change that. Jackson is the sponsor of a bill that would make it illegal to continue having sex with someone who changes their mind during intercourse. In other words, he wants to make rape a crime in North Carolina.
"Legislators are hearing more and more about women who have been raped and are being denied justice because of this crazy loophole," Jackson told the Observer. "North Carolina is the only state in U.S. where no doesn't mean no."
Countless women have run up against this legal loophole after experiencing consensual sex that turns into rape.
Aaliyah Palmer, 19, agreed to have sex with a man at a party until it turned violent. When she told the man to stop, he didn't listen. Palmer believed what happened to her was rape and reported it to local police — but North Carolina's consent law made it impossible for authorities to do anything about it.
"It's really stupid," Palmer told the Observer. "If I tell you no and you kept going, that's rape."
In a similar case, a woman named Amy Guy consented to have sex with her estranged husband, but changed her mind during the encounter because, as with Palmer, it became violent. Though Guy tried to bring rape charges against him, he could only be charged with a misdemeanor assault.
Harrowing stories like Palmer's and Guy's haven't been enough to turn Jackson's bill into law. He told the Observer the bill will likely be dead for the rest of the two-year legislative session.
Nevertheless, Jackson is feeling optimistic. In an emailed press release, the state senator said he plans on reintroducing the legislation in 2018.
"This really shouldn't be a controversial matter," he said. "I believe this bill will inevitably pass, and when it does, my bet is it passes unanimously."