INDIANAPOLIS — Starting July 1, it will be a crime in Indiana to engage in sexual activity with a person who has verbally or physically refused to take part.
HEA 1079 expands the definition of rape to now include when the perpetrator disregards the victim’s attempts to “physically, verbally, or by other visible conduct refuse the person’s acts.”
Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, filed House Bill 1079 to show that someone can deny consent through their words or actions.
“For example, if a woman is pulling her clothes back on and trying to avoid this physical confrontation,” Negele said.
Indiana law has previously defined 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.
“Typically, it is a woman who is raped,” Negele said. “I need to stand up for all women in this scenario."
Governor Holcomb signed HEA1079 on Friday, March 11.
The new law will take effect on July 1.
The Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking says the law will allow prosecutors to better hold perpetrators accountable.
“Clarity gives us yet another tool to successfully hold perpetrators accountable and help survivors on their journey,” Beth White, executive director at ICESAHT said. “Putting into our state law clarity about consent—we believe 1079 is a really important step in that direction. We want to thank the legislators who worked on it. We want to thank Governor Holcomb for signing it.”
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,” Rima Shahid, chief executive officer of Women4Change said. “It’s definitely a step toward making Indiana a better place for women, which is our mission."
A provision of the bill was eliminated that would have also made it a crime to commit rape by impersonation or pretending to be someone’s consensual partner.
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The legislation has the support of Carmel mother Stephanie Stewart, who says a salesman sexually assaulted her in her home, but he was not criminally charged.
“(The advocate) told me they were not going to prosecute. I immediately started sobbing,” said Stewart. “I am not one to cry. I was so devastated and disappointed.”
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The statistics are alarming, according to the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking and RAINN:
- One in five Hoosier women has been sexually assaulted.
- Nationally, two-thirds of sexual assaults are never reported to the police.
- Out of 1,000 sexual assaults, 975 perpetrators will walk free