Welcome to The Kicker from Carolina Public Press, a North Carolina news show bringing you conversations with journalists, sources and newsmakers from across the state.
In this episode, Carolina Public Press lead investigative reporter Kate Martin talks about legislation that reforms North Carolina’s laws on sexual assault. In March 2019, CPP led a collaborative partnership of 10 news organizations from across the state in producing the investigative project “Seeking Conviction,” examining issues of sexual assault prosecution in North Carolina.
Since then, she has reported extensively about related issues, including the legislative process as a package of reforms won approval on Oct. 31. Some of the changes had been declared dead for the year in mid-summer, but ultimately the entire package passed unanimously.
As part of Seeking Conviction project, Kate analyzed more than four years of statewide court data on sexual assaults and than less than 1 and 4 defendants in such cases are eventually convicted.
A key problem has been court precedents that effectively tied the hands of prosecutors in many situations where a rape had apparently occurred but wasn’t defined in rape in North Carolina. In the case of a person who initially agreed to have sex but then withdrew that consent, a 40-year-old court precedent may this the only state in which continuing with the sex act despite this partner’s change of heart isn’t defined as rape.
The package of legislation that passed in October tied together a range of proposals that had been floated earlier in the session. Ultimately, it received bipartisan sponsorship in both chambers of the General Assembly and passed without opposition.
Is there more to be done? Kate suggests that a continuing problem for both the criminal justice system and the health of sexual assault survivors is the lack of sufficient nurses qualified to conduct post-rape forensic examinations, called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners or SANE nurses. Legislative efforts in the future might seek to ensure that hospitals consistently provide this service throughout North Carolina.
About The Kicker
The Kicker is a production of Carolina Public Press. It also airs weekly at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on WPVM radio 103.7 FM in Asheville. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contact the staff of Carolina Public Press about The Kicker.