March 2, 2022

Indiana bill to close rape law loophole heads to governor

The Indiana Statehouse. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indiana Statehouse.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Updated at 2 p.m. March 3 

A bill that seeks to redefine rape and consent in Indiana is headed to the governor's desk after state lawmakers gave it their final approval on Wednesday.

The legislation stipulates that a person who has sexual intercourse with someone who attempts to “physically, verbally, or by other visible conduct refuse the person’s acts” commits rape.

Language to make clear that a person commits rape if they pretend to be a different person and engage in sexual intercourse with someone else was removed from the bill before its final passage.

Indiana’s existing law does not provide a definition of consent. Under the current statute, sex without consent is only considered rape if there’s proof of physical force, or if it occurs with someone who is mentally incapacitated or unaware that it is happening.

Supporters of bill, authored by Republican Rep. Sharon Negele of Attica, say it could help bring more rape cases to trial and provide juries with more guidance when determining the lack of consent.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has additionally maintained that a definition of consent is necessary to help rape victims seek justice.

If Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signs the bill into law, Indiana will join 13 states and the District of Columbia that have legal definitions of consent.

A similar bill authored by Negele in the last Legislative session advanced from the House, but did not get a hearing in the Senate.

This story was first published March 2, 2022. It was updated March 3, 2022, to correct that language making clear that a person commits rape if they pretend to be a different person and engage in sexual intercourse with someone else was removed from the bill before its final passage.

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