GREENFIELD — It was an excruciating weekend in January for Jenny Wendt.
The Greenfield resident had received a voice mail from a detective at IUPUI, where she attended school years earlier.
In a way, she knew what it had to be about. After all, memories of what had happened on April 29, 2005, had never left Wendt’s mind.
The vicious attack by a man she was dating. The two days she spent in bed recovering from rape.
But why would it come to light nine years later?
While Wendt still doesn’t know the answer, her life has been turned upside down, and she’s spent the past six weeks coming out of her shell, sharing her heartbreaking story with the hope that it will one day change Indiana law and help bring more perpetrators to justice.
Unable to forget
Phone calls from reporters, a meeting with state legislators – it’s all foreign to the quiet, petite 35-year-old.
While wanting to remain anonymous at first, Wendt has realized the more she publicly tells her story, the more others can be helped.
And she has also realized it’s probably too late for her; her assailant won’t be brought to justice. Indiana’s statute of limitations on rape has made sure of that.
Wendt, 35, was at a doctor’s appointment in late January when she received the message from the detective with the police department at IUPUI.
“I knew immediately what it was about,” she said, realizing somehow her assailant, Bart Bareither, had been linked to her 2005 rape.
She didn’t sleep much that weekend, waiting for her opportunity Monday to return the detective’s call.
“My first thought was that he had done it again and got caught, and somehow it had come about that way,” she said.
But when she found out Bareither had confessed to the crime, Wendt was in “complete confusion,” and the events of that day flooded her mind all over again.
She had never forgotten. Though she’s a long way from those long days of studying to Tori Amos music in her Indianapolis apartment, little things come up constantly to trigger memories from the past.
Now surrounded by a loving family and a boyfriend, Wendt says in a soft but firm voice: “You never really recover from something like this.”
Wendt met Bareither when she was a nursing student at IUPUI. A teacher’s assistant in her physiology lab, Bareither seemed to have it all together. He was smart, fit and experienced in martial arts – something the two had in common.
“I was pretty impressed. I liked him,” Wendt recalls, remembering how he seemed to pursue her until the final day of class when he asked for her number.
They went on five or six dates, to restaurants or hanging out with friends. Nothing physical, Wendt said.
On that April day in 2005, they had spent some time touring a winery. It was in the middle of the afternoon when Bareither asked if he could come up to her apartment to watch a movie.
“Immediately when we got upstairs was when the attack happened,” Wendt said. “I have no doubt it was pre-planned…. He didn’t fumble. The door closed, I was grabbed, my clothes were taken off, and I was attacked. He walked out the door like nothing happened. It was a very violent attack.”
Though Wendt had thought she’d be able to maneuver her way out of an attack because of her experience in kung fu, her 105-pound frame was no match for her 200-pound attacker.
Wendt had always considered herself a strong-willed person and had no doubt she would report a crime if it happened to her. But she didn’t.
“I didn’t tell anybody. I was in my own world,” she said. “I just lay in my bed for days, bleeding, hurting, traumatized, surprised, confused. It was somebody I knew or thought I knew, and it was just a complete surprise.”
Eventually, she told a close friend. And then another friend who walked her to and from summer classes to protect her from Bareither, who worked in a nearby office.
And then there was the friend she confided in the day she got a phone call, confirming she had HPV – something Wendt says has been a constant reminder of the attack.
Wendt even obtained a pistol because she felt unsafe in her Indianapolis apartment. Her mother, Kathy, thought something might have happened to her daughter the day they took a training course together, but she waited for Jenny to confide in her in her own time.
Graduating in 2008, Wendt took on nursing jobs and strived to move on, spending time with friends and family, taking on hobbies like sewing and attending concerts.
And then she got the phone call that Bareither had confessed.
Did she want to press charges? Of course, Wendt said.
But then another phone call came. This one was devastating. Indiana’s statute of limitations says a person cannot be prosecuted on a Class B felony rape charge if it happened five or more years ago.
Wendt was floored.
She started a petition to change Indiana law. About 1,500 supporters have signed the online appeal at www.change.org.
And she contacted local lawmakers and met with a few of them last week at the Statehouse.
State Sen. Mike Crider had known the Wendt family for years and was shocked to hear about what happened to Jenny.
“My stance is, that’s such a violent act that any time, for any reason later on, the person who commits that crime should be convicted,” Crider said.
He’s working with other lawmakers to write a bill for the 2015 legislative session that would change the statute of limitations.
“Her case is not that unusual where people either know the person that had committed the act and are afraid of them, or they’re just so humiliated or victimized by the fact that they just don’t say anything,” Crider said.
Kathy Wendt said she’s proud of her daughter for her strong will. She hopes Jenny can eventually “feel like maybe some good has come from this horrible experience and maybe help other people that have been in that same position.”
For Jenny Wendt, the story is already spinning in a positive direction. She’s received dozens of messages from others who are inspired by her story, which is getting easier to tell the more she talks about it.
“I think I’ve gotten stronger the more I talk about it; each time I have to tell somebody about it, each time I get in a relationship,” she said. “Even the last two weeks I’ve had to talk to somebody, it’s made me stronger each time. I’ve had a ton of friends and strangers come to me and say, ‘Hey, this happened to me.’ Or, ‘I’m so proud (of you), I can’t believe what you’re doing.’ ”
She might never know why Bareither confessed. The detective passed along the attacker’s message that he was sorry. But Wendt has no words for her assailant.
“What could you say to somebody who violently and viciously raped you and then decides conveniently after the statute of limitations to come forward and confess?... What do I have to say to you? Nothing.”
With a stack full of statistics in hand every time she shares her story, Wendt has become overwhelmed knowing there are so many others like her out there. Sixty percent of rape cases are left unreported, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Out of every 100 rapes that occur nationwide, only eight will be prosecuted, and only three rapists will spend a day in jail, according to RAINN.
She hopes her story encourages women to report rape when it happens to them, or at least save a piece of clothing or fabric to provide DNA evidence for an investigation. Most of all, she hopes to encourage women to become more educated about the laws and know what they can do if they become a victim.
“A lot of women I’ve spoken to that’s happened to them, they would much rather brush it under a rug and forget about it. I was one of those,” she said. “I always figured if something like this would happen to me, you bet I would go (and report it). Well, then it happened, and I didn’t. That’s why I’ve got to share my story.”
Petition is online
To learn more of Jenny Wendt’s story and to sign her petition, visit www.change.org and search for “Jenny Wendt.”