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Committee decides to not define ‘consent’

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The Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code met Oct. 6, and despite calls from the community, decided not to recommend proposed legislation defining consent in the Indiana statute.

Women4Change Indiana, a coalition looking to promote equality for women, has been working toward the creation of a legal definition of “consent.” The current lack of a definition makes it difficult to prosecute sex crimes.

“Unfortunately, the Interim Study Committee was unable to come to a consensus to make a recommendation about passing legislation to define consent in the state of Indiana,” Rima Shahid, executive director of Women4Change Indiana, said in a statement. “After hours of testimony, it is evident that Indiana is in dire need of legislation geared toward defining consent in the Indiana statute. Women4Change remains committed to continuing the fight and advocating for Hoosier women.”

In March, Women4Change Indiana hosted a rally at the statehouse to bring legislators and community members together to discuss the impact of sexual assault on Hoosier women. At the event, The Clothesline was on display, an art installation featuring the stories of sexual assault survivors in Indiana. All 92 counties in the state were represented in the display.

At the event, Rep. Sue Errington, (D-Muncie), said simply saying “no” is not enough for an unwanted sexual encounter to be legally considered rape in the status quo. Instead, there must be force or threat of force.

Cordelia Lewis-Burks, Rita Venerable and Velvet Miller, members of Changemakers, a sub-committee of Women4Change Indiana, said in a previous interview with the Recorder that one party saying “no” before or during a sexual encounter should be enough for the exchange to legally be considered rape.

One in five Hoosier women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and the state has the fourth highest number of high school girls who are sexually assaulted every year.

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