College students urged to report sexual assaults under Indiana’s Lifeline Law

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INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 17, 2015) – As college and university students begin moving in this week, a Central Indiana family is pleading with them to call 911, even if they’ve been underage drinking.

“He was found by his friends,” Dawn Finbloom said, whose son Brett died three years ago this month from underage drinking. “They waited. They debated. They didn’t know exactly what to do. They were scared.”

Dawn Finbloom stood before the cameras Monday, pushing and pleading for a new generation of college-bound students to know they can call for help without legal consequence.

“They waited, and by the time the paramedics got there, his heart had stopped for too long,” she said.

Indiana’s Lifeline Law provides immunity to minors under the influence who report a medical emergency or crime.

A new campaign kicked off today, directly targeting millions of college students on campuses statewide. Last fall, supporters said their ads reached six million people.

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And new this year, the message will push students to report sexual assaults, a move now covered under the law.

“I think when people are in that situation, they’re scared to call the police because they don’t want to get in trouble,” Justin England said, a freshman this fall at IUPUI. “But now that that’s in place, they’ll be more willing to get help.”

State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) wrote the law.

While he said the law is working as intended since its implementation last year, the new challenge is to convince colleges and universities to no longer punish students for using the Lifeline Law, even if they’ve been underage drinking.

“If you’re on a football team, a basketball team, or if you’re in band or college, there’s a likelihood they won’t recognize it,” Merritt said. “So it’s something we’re going to work with school boards and college campuses to make sure that everyone feels the necessity to call 911.”

The Finbloom’s said they know first-hand of 21 lives saved since the law’s implementation.

The most impactful, they recalled, is the family that one day arrived on their doorstep.

“They were crying on our door when they did it,” Norm Finbloom said, Brett’s dad. “They had come straight from the hospital and it was nine in the morning. And it was very emotional with those parents.”

Lawmakers said they hope to have a better idea of the campaign’s overall impact after this fall’s campaign, adding one of the biggest challenges is still making sure students are aware the law even exists.

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