ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE: No finally means no, but new law still lacking

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(Jeffersonville & New Albany) News and Tribune

Thanks to bipartisan support, the definition for sexual consent in Indiana will be more clear beginning July 1. But the latest changes in state law fail to address the issue that spurred this legislation in the first place.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed House Enrolled Act 1079 into law. The bill, authored by Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica), amends state code defining rape to include disregarding another person’s attempts to resist sexual advances through physical, verbal or other visible conduct.

So soon “No Means No” will be the law of the land in Indiana. It’s shocking that it took our state legislature this long to address this glaring gap in the law, but we applaud our elected officials for finally getting it done.

Still, while this new law is another step in protecting Hoosiers from rape and sexual assault, it’s not the end of the discussion. In fact, the new law ignores the loophole that prompted the legislation to begin with. That loophole was the focus of a 2017 incident at Purdue University.

A female student reported she had been assaulted by a man she believed to be her boyfriend after falling asleep in her boyfriend’s dorm room.

She later realized the man carrying out the assault was not her boyfriend and went to a hospital to have a rape kit administered. The woman’s attacker admitted he knew the woman thought she was responding to the advances of her boyfriend, but his lawyer successfully argued that engaging in such a ruse did not constitute rape under Indiana law.

Negele said that 2017 incident was the reason she introduced her legislation, but before passing the bill, the Senate removed a section adding deception to the definition of rape.

That means that even after this new law takes effect, the kind of assault that prompted its introduction will still be legal under Indiana law.

Others have criticized the “No Means No” definition of rape, instead arguing for a “Yes Means Yes” acknowledgment of consent. Joyce Short, the chief executive officer at Consent Awareness Network, told the StateHouseFile that the bill “falls ridiculously short of the protections needed by the residents of Indiana.”

While not opposed to HEA 1079, Short told the State-HouseFile that more protections need to be added and consent better defined. She labeled the law a “dinosaur” compared to the progress made in other states.

So while Indiana has begun updating its archaic definitions of consent and rape, more work needs to be done. Sexual assault is a crime that affects victims for their entire lives.

Our state must punish criminals and protect Hoosiers by closing loopholes and making clear the definition of consent.