WEST LAFAYETTE – Nearly a year after a former Purdue student escaped a guilty verdict on a rape charge – even after admitting that he knew the woman he initiated sex with in a dark university dorm bed thought he was her boyfriend – lawmakers filed two bills this week that look to close the loophole Indiana’s rape statute.
House Bill 1584, filed Thursday by state Rep. Donna Schaibley, a Republican from Carmel, follows a template set out by Sally Siegrist, a former Republican state representative from West Lafayette, who was among those outraged in February 2018 when a Tippecanoe County jury’s acquitted Donald Grant Ward.
Ward’s attorney, Kirk Freeman, successfully argued that what the Purdue freshman did might not have been gentlemanly, but it did not constitute rape according to Indiana law, which defines the crime 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, Freeman argued in court, Abigail Finney, also a Purdue freshman at the time, understood she was having sex and wasn’t forced into it, even though she thought it was her boyfriend who climbed into the bed and initiated things. The jury bought it: It wasn’t technically rape, according to Indiana law.
Schaibley’s bill would add this definition of deception to the state’s rape law: “A person who knowingly or intentionally has sex with another person, or knowingly or intentionally causes another person to perform or submit to other sexual conduct when the person knows or reasonably should have known that the other person believed that the person is the other person’s spouse or significant other, commits rape.”
Schaibley was not immediately available to speak about the bill, which was assigned to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code. Siegrist this week declined to comment on how closely House Bill 1584 mirrored legislation she spent last spring and summer crafting, saying, “I have every confidence in my former colleagues.”