A bipartisan bill filed by legislators in the North Carolina House Tuesday seeks to fill what its sponsors have identified as “loopholes” in existing laws on sexual assault, especially around abuse of juveniles, abuse that occurs while a person is incapacitated, and distribution of date rape drugs.
“There’s a significant number of victims who aren’t getting justice,” said Michael Wilson, a legislative assistant for Representative Chaz Beasley of Mecklenburg County, one of four sponsors on the bill. “We started looking at how to close those loopholes.”
Wilson told the INDY that Beasley’s office began looking into these loopholes after a 2018 incident in Charlotte. In June, a 31 year-old woman named Leah McGuirk was drugged in the Charlotte EpiCentre. According to Wilson, after McGuirk came forward with her story, 15 other women also shared experiences of having been drugged at Rooftop 210, which is the rooftop bar at Charlotte EpiCentre.
“They started calling it ‘Roofie-top 210’ because they were drugged on their first drink,” Wilson said. “But when she went to the police, because no secondary crime was committed, it wasn’t triggering sufficient charges for them to investigate.”
House Bill 393 would change that, making it illegal to distribute beverages and other harmful substances that could damage a person’s health.
Also sponsoring the bill are Representatives Jay Adams, a Republican representing Catawba, Gale Adcock, a Democrat from Wake County and Jamie Boles, Jr., a Republican representing Moore County. The four sponsors seek to secure “justice for survivors” in defining clearer legal consequences for sexual assault, rape and distribution of incapacitating substances.
Additionally, H.B. 393 would widen the legal definition of a “caretaker,” extending the title to adults in a dating or romantic relationship with the parent, guardian, or legal custodian of a juvenile. Monika Johnson Hostler, the executive director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault told the INDY that such patterns of abuse are common. In applying the caretaker title to individuals romantically involved with a primary caretaker, the bill would administer stricter punishment of these individuals as caretaker abusers.
“These are issues that sexual assault advocates and families and therapists and Department of Social Services have dealt with for decades,” Johnson-Hostler said. “I think this gets us closer to acknowledging in our state statutes what we are actually seeking.”
The bill also proposes a change to existing law that would define mental incapacitation not just as a state forced upon a victim by a perpetrator, but sometimes attained by the victim themself. Under current law, a victim of a crime is only under mental a state of mental incapacitation if they had no knowledge of their consumption of a substance. This does not protect victims who voluntarily drink or consume drugs and are later assaulted. According to Wilson, in filing H.B. 393, lawmakers hope to “allow victims that participate in their own intoxication to still be categorized as mentally incapacitated.”
“Given where we are currently around sexual assault in this country,” Johnson-Hostler said, “We have to realize that institutions have not really done a good job of recognizing the issue of sexual violence and how to address it adequately… We’re going to be addressing some of these gaps fully if this piece of legislation moves quickly.”
Had I know this loophole like in 2007 December when I Up and moved to NC at Woodgate apartments alpine valley way or something … I would have bought roofies and drugged him before I married him! Maybe he would have asked me sooner to marry him.
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