INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that advocates said would close a loophole in Indiana’s rape law.
House Bill 1079 passed the Indiana House on an 86-3 vote last month. Although a similar bill did not get a hearing in the Senate last year, it’s scheduled to be heard by the Senate corrections and criminal law committee Tuesday.
“As a survivor, you don’t get that many days of celebration,” said Emma Walker, who has been a survivor since 2014, when she was raped in a college fraternity house.
Walker said she looked into pressing criminal charges, but legal experts told her she might not get a conviction.
“I couldn’t realistically go through that process to then potentially be told at the end he gets to walk free,” Walker said.
Walker said she believes House Bill 1079 could change that outcome for other survivors. It would specify that rape includes situations when there’s a “lack of consent,” which is not included in the state’s current definition of rape.
“One in five women in the state of Indiana will experience sexual assault in their lifetime,” said Beth White, president and CEO of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking. “One in five. It’s unacceptable, and it needs to change.”
According to State Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica), who wrote the bill, many other states have already updated their definitions of rape.
“Our law actually hasn’t been changed since the 1800’s in our rape statute,” Negele said.
Some Hoosiers do have concerns about the proposal. Bernice Corley of the Indiana Public Defender Council argues it’s not necessary.
“Since 1884, Indiana law has already recognized that there can be rape by fraud or deceit and that there’s no need to prove violence,” Corley said.
Negele disagreed, saying that “what we do know is that case law supports everything that we’re trying to accomplish.”
Today, Emma Walker uses her experience to help others through her work at the YWCA of Northeast Indiana.
Walker said she hopes lawmakers continue to advance the bill so more sexual assault survivors can get justice.
“I really think we need to take what I consider a national epidemic of sexual assault and start to address it,” she said.