Indiana Rape Law Denies Victim Ability to Press Charges

The law is meant to protect victims of crime.  At least this is what Jenny Wendt, 35, of Hancock County, Indiana, thought.  However, according to an Indianapolis Star story, a victim of rape is being denied the chance to prosecute her attacker.  The reason?

It happened too long ago.

Wendt is being told, despite the fact that her attacker has now confessed to the crime, she cannot press charges because the rape happened over five years ago.  According to Indiana law, the statute of limitations is five years for the crime of rape and sexual assault.

IUPUI_assiatant_rape_indianaWendt was attacked and raped at her Indianapolis apartment in the spring of 2005.  She was raped by teaching assistant at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Bart Bareither.  Wendt attended the school as a nursing student and received her degree there.  At the time she was too frightened and intimidated to report the crime.  However, this year Bareither confessed to the crime.  Despite this confession, the Indiana statute of limitations says rapes that have occurred over five years ago are barred from prosecution except for the ones that result in serious bodily injury.

Serious bodily injury  is defined as serious permanent disfigurement, unconsciousness, extreme pain (proved by a doctor), permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ and/or loss of a fetus. The element of serious injury raises rape to a Class A felony status from a Class B felony.

The problem is – too much time has passed and Wendt is unable to prove serious bodily injury.  By now the only injuries are scars that cannot be seen.

A loophole has been found in a law that is meant to protect the victim it is actually harming.  Wendt hopes to change that by working with lawmakers to change the statute of limitations from five to twenty years.

Wendt started a petition at Monday, February 24. She had accumulated nearly 700 signatures as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

“I am overwhelmed,” Wendt said. “I have had a lot of women tell me their personal stories.”

The hope is other victims who have been too frightened to speak up before will find the courage to find their voice.  Wendt, along with hundreds of others, hope this spark will be enough to cause change in a law that has failed to protect the very people it was meant to protect.

“I want to change this law for every woman from here forward,” she said. “I hope no one will never have to deal with Bart Bareither or anyone like him again, ever.”

Alaina Sullivan

Alaina Sullivan

Alaina Sullivan is an attorney and freelance writer in Indiana. She focuses her legal work on providing free legal services to those who cannot afford an attorney and is passionate in writing about legal issues and news in the non-profit industry.