INDIANAPOLIS – Prosecutors say a new state law could make it easier to get justice for survivors of rape.
Starting July 1, rape in Indiana will include situations when “the person disregarded the other person’s attempts to physically, verbally, or by other visible conduct refuse the person’s acts.”
Some prosecutors say for years, Indiana’s definition of rape has caused confusion for jurors and challenges toward getting justice.
“Was it an impediment to filing? No. Was it an impediment to a conviction? Yeah, I’ve had that,” said Scott Spears, chief deputy prosecutor for Shelby County.
The state’s new definition of rape makes it easier to convict perpetrators who didn’t use force, explained Spears, who helps prosecute rape cases.
“Where do we find this a lot is where intimate partners, one of the partners takes it too far,” he said.
“The state shouldn’t have to show that there was a struggle, a fight, a screaming victim because that’s not the reality of how people always react in those situations,” Spears added.
Spears’ colleague Brandon Robinson, a deputy prosecuting attorney, said he believes the change to state law will ultimately lead to more convictions.
“All we have to show is that the victim physically, verbally or by any other means trying to get the attacker to stop,” Robinson said. “No means no.”
“It’s a really important step; it is not the only step,” said Beth White, president and CEO of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking.
White said she wants to see lawmakers explicitly define consent under the statute in the future. Still, she feels the change will make an impact, she added.
“The more perpetrators that are held accountable, I believe more survivors will come forward,” White said. “And I think they’ll come forward to regain the power and control that’s taken from them in the context of a sexual assault.”
The law would only apply to incidents that happen on or after July 1. It cannot be used to prosecute crimes that occurred before that time.