RALEIGH, N.C.-- A sexual assault nurse examiner on Friday said changes in state law could encourage more sexual assault survivors to come forward.

  • A bill makes it a crime to commit a sexual assault after a person has withdrawn their consent to sex
  • North Carolina had been the only state where the laws did not address the issue of withdrawn consent
  • The bill also extends the legal time limit for reporting child sexual assault

State lawmakers on Thursday unanimously approved a measure that extends the state's definition of sexual assault to include situations where someone withdraws their consent after a sex act has started. North Carolina previously was the only state in the union where the laws did not address the issue, an oversight many advocates dubbed the consent loophole. In addition to the bipartisan support, the bill was endorsed by Attorney General Josh Stein.

Brace Boone, the director of the Women's Center of Wake County, called the bill's passage “a tremendous victory” that has been sorely needed for some time.

Lauren Schwartz, a sexual assault nurse examiner with InterAct of Wake County, said she has noticed an increase in the number of sexual assault survivors who have come forward as the national conversation around consent has grown. She said coming forward is a huge decision for survivors.

“I think what this really does is tell survivors that this is not their fault. It tells the community that we believe survivors, that we stand by them and that we will hold offenders accountable.”

In addition to the consent issue, the bill extends the statute of limitations for reporting child sexual abuse until the survivor turns 28. The legislation also makes it a crime to fail to report an incident of child sexual abuse.

The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk. It would become effective December 1 upon approval.

Most counties in North Carolina have a rape crisis center with a 24-hour crisis line.

You can also call the national sexual assault hotline at 1-800-656-4673.