We came across a blog post once that began, “It is unpleasant to be charged with a sex crime.” It is a true statement, certainly, but it fell a little short of the typical lead-in to a discussion of such a difficult and sensitive subject. Yes, it can be unpleasant to be charged, just as it is unpleasant to be the victim. If we left it at “unpleasant,” though, imagine the ramifications.
It’s hard to send someone to prison for being unpleasant. It’s hard to defend yourself from charges of being unpleasant — “Yes, your honor, I can see how the alleged victim could imagine that this was unpleasant, but my client has a no record of being unpleasant and had no motive to be unpleasant in this case.”
There would be no “Law & Order: SVU.”
Our point is that we attach a certain gravity to the idea and the fact of a sex crime. But even if we and most everyone else think a sex crime is one thing, does it matter if the law says it’s something else?
We’ve been discussing domestic violence for the past couple of posts, and we think it is important for us, the victim and the accused to understand that domestic violence is more than fighting, more, even, than stabbing someone 22 times (a Raleigh man was recently charged with such an attack on a woman). In North Carolina, domestic violence is actually an umbrella term that covers a number of different crimes: assault and attempted assault, certainly, but also rape, stalking and threatening, to name just a few.
What makes something domestic violence instead of a violent crime is if the accused has a personal relationship with the accuser. That’s it. And once the police get there, North Carolina law allows them to “take whatever steps necessary to protect the complainant from harm” and protects them from criminal or civil liability “on account of reasonable measures taken” to ensure the complainant is safe from harm.
Imagine, then, if a wife is accused of threatening to kill her husband — threatening him to the extent, he tells police, that he is seriously afraid for his life. She could be behind bars and in a heap of trouble even if she has done nothing wrong, or if her husband has misinterpreted something that she said or did.
Go back to the No More public service announcement (here) that aired during the Super Bowl. Imagine that you are the person in the room with the caller. What would have happened next?
Source: North Carolina General Statutes Annotated, § 50B-1 “Domestic Violence: Definitions,” via WestlawNext