WEST LAFAYETTE – If Indiana is going to fix a loophole in Indiana’s rape law – one that allowed a Purdue student to walk after tricking a fellow student that he was her boyfriend – it won’t be in 2019.

A pair of bills, introduced in the Indiana House in January and designed to deal with what happened in a bed in Purdue’s First Street Towers residence hall in 2017, did not get a hearing during the General Assembly session.

Though, sponsors of the measures say they’ll likely be back during the 2020 General Assembly session to see if they can get traction.

“Nearly 100 bills were assigned to the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, so time was a factor,” said state Rep. Donna Schaibley, a Republican from Carmel.

Schaibley picked up where former state Rep. Sally Siegrist, a Republican from West Lafayette, left off with House Bill 1584, which was aimed at cases of rape by deception.

The question about Indiana’s sex crimes law stirred after the February 2018 acquittal of Donald Grant Ward. Ward was charged with rape after he climbed into bed and initiated sex with a fellow Purdue freshman in a dark dorm room. The victim testified that she believed Ward was her boyfriend. She found out only after getting up to go to the restroom and returning to find Ward smiling up at her. 

Ward’s attorney successfully argued that what he did might not have been the best idea or socially acceptable, it did not meet the standard for rape under Indiana law. The state defines rape as an act of force, involving someone mentally disabled or when the victim is unaware of the sexual intercourse or sexual conduct.

In this case, Lafayette attorney Kirk Freeman argued that there was no force and the victim was aware that intercourse was happening. It wasn’t, Freeman argued, technically rape.

The jury agreed.

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