Editorial: No, it’s finally no, but the new consent law is still missing (copy) | Editorials

Thanks to bipartisan support, the definition of sexual consent in Indiana will be clearer starting July 1. But the latest changes to state law fail to address the problem that spurred this legislation in the first place.

Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law House Enrolled Act 1079. The bill, drafted by Rep. Sharon Negele, changes the state’s code defining rape to include disregarding another person’s attempts to resist sexual advances through physical, verbal or other behavior.

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

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

A student said she was assaulted by a man she believed to be her boyfriend after she fell asleep in her boyfriend’s dorm. She later realized the man who carried out the assault was not her boyfriend and went to the hospital to be administered a rape kit. The woman’s attacker admitted he knew the woman thought she was responding to her boyfriend’s advances, but her lawyer successfully argued that engaging in such a ruse did not constitute rape under the Indiana law.

Negele said the 2017 incident was the reason she introduced her bill, but before passing the bill, the Senate removed a section adding deception to the definition of rape. This means that even after this new law takes effect, the type of assault that prompted its introduction will still be legal under Indiana law.

Others have criticized the “No, it’s no” definition of rape, arguing instead for recognition of “Yes, it’s yes” consent.

Joyce Short, chief executive of the Consent Awareness Network, told the StateHouseFile that the bill “falls ridiculously short of the protections Indiana residents need.”

While not opposed to HEA 1079, Short told the StateHouseFile that more protections need to be added and consent needs to be better defined. She called the law “dinosaur” compared to progress in other states.

So while Indiana has begun updating its archaic definitions of consent and rape, there is still work to be done. Sexual assault is a crime that affects victims throughout their lives. Our state must punish the criminals and protect the Hoosiers by closing the loopholes and clarifying the definition of consent.

— News and Tribune Editorial Board