INDIANAPOLIS — The House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code advanced legislation authored by state Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica) that would close a loophole in Indiana's rape statute to ensure those who commit rape by impersonation are held accountable.
Negele said her bill stems from a case involving a Lafayette student in 2017 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.
According to Negele, a member of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, her legislation would make it a crime for someone to pose as the victim's normal, consensual partner since they are removing the victim's right to consent.
"This woman deserved justice, and this legislation is an opportunity to help right a wrong," Negele said. "The outcome may not be what we had hoped for in her case, but it shined a bright light on a loophole in the law that I'm dedicated to closing."
Current law requires a person charged with rape had to knowingly or intentionally cause another person to perform or submit to sexual conduct in one of three ways, including force, mentally disabled or mentally deficient, or unaware the sex is occurring.
Negele said the current definition of consent is lacking and her legislation would allow a judge and jury to consider whether a person provided consent to sex through their words and actions.
"Unfortunately, consent is not defined in the Indiana code, which can make it hard for a judge or jury to assess individual rape cases," Negele said. "I have had many discussions with lawmakers, experts and victims of rape over the past few years to tackle this issue. I believe this legislation defines consent effectively, and will protect those who deserve justice."
According to Negele, courts and jurors could use the new definition to better guide them as to whether a victim provided consent or not. The definition would also be placed solely within the rape statute, so it cannot be erroneously used.
It shifts the focus from the actions of the victim to the intention of the perpetrator in relation to what they are witnessing and doing.
Negele said this change would ensure that victims are able to bring their case forward and be able to articulate why and how they did not consent.
House Bill 1079 now heads to the full Indiana House for further consideration.
For more information, visit iga.in.gov.