INDIANAPOLIS (WEHT) – The Indiana House passed the Elements of Rape or HB 1079 by a vote of 90-1 on March 2. The bill is headed to Governor Holcomb’s desk for his signature.

The Indiana Senate unanimously passed the bill on March 1. The organization Women4Change has advocated for a legal definition of sexual consent for years.

Indiana law currently states that intercourse is only considered rape if it’s done by force, threat of force or if it occurs with someone who is mentally incapacitated or unaware that it’s happening. HB 1079 clarifies that someone commits rape if “the person disregarded the other person’s attempts to physically, verbally or by other visible conduct refuse the person’s acts.”

“Having a law that defines consent could mean that Indiana prosecutors will be more likely to take rape cases to court and more survivors will find the courage to seek justice,” said Chief Executive Officer of Women4Change Rima Shahid. “It’s definitely a step toward making Indiana a better place for women, which is our mission.”

The initial public push for the law came in September 2019 when Women4Change was working with hundreds of arts, cultural and victims’ rights advocates and social services groups. The organization kicked off the El Tendedero/The Clothesline initiative which highlighted the issue of sexual assault as a means to strengthening state laws around legal consent.

Women4Change and its partners held public events in a variety of venues in the 150 days after that launch and collected hundreds of notecards from Hoosier women who shared stories of sexual violence. The campaign culminated with the installation of 1,500 of those pink notecards hung on clotheslines in the Statehouse on March 5, 2020.

The Indiana Legislative Council assigned an interim study committee to consider a law to define sexual consent after being prompted by the installation and testimony of victims and their advocates. The Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code met in October 2020 and decided not to recommend proposed legislation defining consent in the Indiana statute. 

Women4Change continued to advocate for consent legislation during the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions and made progress for Hoosier women each year.

Women4Change thanked the bill’s author Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, as well as co-authors Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, and Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis.