INDIANAPOLIS — A bill aimed at better defining consent and rape in Indiana is heading to the desk of Gov. Eric Holcomb after passing the Indiana Senate in a unanimous vote.
House Bill 1079 was passed 50-0 and will now go back to the Indiana House of Representatives for final approval before heading to the governor.
The bill says rape is when there's an expressed lack of consent, either through words or actions, and a person engaged in sexual activity with another person disregards the other person's attempts to refuse their acts.
Indiana law currently defines rape as when a perpetrator has to use threat or the threat of force, or if the victim is unaware of what’s happening or they can’t consent due to a disability.
Women4Change Indiana, a local nonprofit that advocates for women's rights and safety, celebrated the development as a victory.
"Having a law that defines consent could mean that Indiana prosecutors will be more likely to take rape cases to court, and more survivors will find the courage to seek justice,” said Rima Shahid, chief executive officer of Women4Change. “It’s definitely a step toward making Indiana a better place for women, which is our mission."
HB 1079 would also make it a crime to commit rape by impersonation or pretending to be someone’s consensual partner.
The bill's author, jRep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica), added the language after learning about a 2017 case involving a Purdue student who had sex with a man she believed was her boyfriend in a dark dorm room.
He later admitted to the act but was acquitted of rape due to a gap in state law.
"This is a lifelong scar that people have to live with,” Negele previously told WRTV. “It's time for us to make sure they feel confident to go to court, the law is behind them and they feel protected.”
WRTV Reporter Kara Kenney contributed to this report.