HIGH POINT, N.C. — Sexual assault victims in North Carolina say they are getting victimized twice.
The state’s sexual assault laws do not appear to totally protect victims, especially when drugs and alcohol are involved.
People are now saying in the wake of the #MeToo movement, things need to change.
“I did everything I thought I was supposed to do,” Erica Blackwood said.
Twenty years ago, she says she became a victim of sexual assault.
“I reported it. I gave as much information about the perpetrator as I could and nothing happened. I wasn’t able to get charges brought up against him,” she said.
In Blackwood’s case, drugs and alcohol were not involved.
But if they were, a loophole in state laws would make it harder for her to get protection.
“So often with a sexually violent crime, we turn our attention to the victim and to what she, or he, was doing or not doing, versus turning it into, what were the conditions for that sexually violent act to occur? What was that offender doing?” said Catherine Johnson, director at the Family Justice Center.
Johnson explains that North Carolina is one of a handful of states where the law does not protect victims who become incapacitated because of their own actions.
“If you get yourself drunk or have taken drugs, somehow you have negated the responsibility of being able to say no,” Blackwood said.
That’s why Blackwood has become an advocate. She’s trying to help other survivors get their own versions of justice.
But Blackwood believes there’s a big obstacle in their way.
“One of the laws is that if a woman consents to sex, that she cannot withdraw her consent,” she said.
Both Blackwood and Johnson agree, it’s the language of the law that needs to change.
“Reframing that conversation and that series of questions, I think, towards what the offender was doing,” Johnson said. “Not what the victim was doing. It’s a really important part of the conversation.”
Lawmakers are already passing bills to close the loopholes.
Just last week, the state House passed a bill changing the definition of what it is to be incapacitated and other language surrounding sexual assault.