November 07, 2019

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill into law on Thursday to strengthen protections for children who have been sexually abused and sexual assault laws.

The N.C. General Assembly unanimously passed the bill at the end of October, and it will go into effect on Dec. 1.

The bill makes failure to report crimes against juveniles a misdemeanor, expands the statute of limitations for misdemeanor crimes involving abuse against children and protects children online from high-risk sex offenders.

Michael Dolce, of counsel at the Cohen Milstein law firm and leader of the firm’s sexual abuse, sex trafficking and domestic abuse team, said while the bill is definitely a step in the right direction, there is still much that can be done regarding sexual assault legislation in the state.

“As much as this bill takes a significant step forward, a very important step forward, I would encourage legislators in North Carolina and a number of other states to repeal all their statutes of limitations for sex crimes,” he said. “Every state that I’m aware of, there is no statute of limitations for murder. As it relates to sex crimes, it ought to be the same.”

Dolce also said the bill's provision that directs K-12 schools to develop training programs for faculty on sex-trafficking and sexual assault prevention should be extended to college campuses.

“If you look at data across the board, the most dangerous place for any adults, female in particular, to be in the U.S. as it relates to sexual assault, is on a college campus, particularly as a first-year college student,” Dolce said. “I think that colleges and universities not just in North Carolina but across the country need to create an atmosphere where reporting (sexual assault) becomes something that is comfortable.”

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