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Governor signs bill aimed at defining rape and consent in Indiana

HEA 1079 takes effect July 1
Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, filed House Bill 1079 which says rape is when you express a lack of consent either through your words or your actions.
Posted at 2:10 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 14:18:39-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed into law a bill aimed at better defining consent and rape in Indiana.

House Enrolled Act 1079 says rape is 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,” said Negele.

Negele represents eight counties including parts of Tippecanoe and Montgomery counties.

“Typically, it is a woman who is raped,” said Negele. “I need to stand up for all women in this scenario."

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.

Governor Holcomb signed HEA1079 on Friday, March 11.

The new law will take effect 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,” said Beth White, executive director at ICESAHT, told WRTV. “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,” 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."

A provision of the bill was eliminated that would have also make it a crime to commit rape by impersonation or pretending to be someone’s consensual partner.

States like Colorado, California, Florida, Minnesota, and Illinois define consent, but Indiana does not.

RELATED | State by State look at consent laws

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 prosecuteI immediately started sobbing,” said Stewart. “I am not one to cry. I was so devastated and disappointed.”

PREVIOUS | Carmel woman on a mission to change Indiana rape law

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

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