Indiana Extends Deadlines for Rape Cases

     INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Extending the statute of limitations to file rape charges, Gov. Mike Pence ceremoniously signed a bill sparked by outrage over a man who walked into a police station, copped to a nearly decade-old attack and walked out.
     “Jenny’s Law” allows prosecutors to extend their deadlines by five additional years in any of the following circumstances: when the state discovers new DNA evidence that identifies the offender; when the state first becomes aware of the existence of an audio or visual recording that provides evidence sufficient to charge the offender; or if an individual confesses to the crime. The law goes into effect on July 1.
     Pence formally signed the bill in April, but invited the bill’s namesake, Jenny Wendt Ewing, to a ceremonial signing last week.
     “Jenny’s Law marks an important milestone in the life of our state as well as in the lives of victims of sexual assault,” Pence said. “This law would not have been possible without Jenny’s courage.”
     Wendt Ewing, now an Oregon resident, began to push for the new legislation in 2014, shortly after her rapist confessed to the 2005 crime but avoided prosecution because five years had passed since the attack took place.
     At the time of the attack, Wendt Ewing was a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
     Although Wendt Ewing did not file a report after the teaching assistant whom Wendt Ewing had dated raped her in her off-campus apartment, she immediately moved to press charges after her rapist confessed to the crime in January 2014, telling officers that he had raped a student in 2005.
     Officers wrote “Case closed” in their report and told Wendt Ewing that she could not prosecute because the five-year statute of limitations had expired.
     “[The man who raped me] walked into a police station and said, ‘I raped somebody,’ and he walked out the front door,” Wendt Ewing said.
     She then began circulating a petition urging legislators to lengthen Indiana’s statute of limitations in cases of sexual assault. Within three days, Wendt Ewing had collected nearly 700 signatures.
     “It’s an unfortunate reality that far too many sexual assaults go unreported and unpunished.” Sen. Mike Crider, the bill’s author, said.
     “After hearing Jenny’s story, I was focused on changing our laws to help her and others who deserve justice. I believe this law will give prosecutors tools to bring charges against sexual predators while empowering victims of this terrible crime.”
     Presently 34 states and Washington, D.C, have statutes of limitations for filing sexual-assault charges, ranging from three to 30 years. Twenty-seven states extend or suspend statutes of limitations if DNA evidence can identify a suspect, but these exemptions vary widely state-to-state.
     “This law was such a collective effort by so many people,” Wendt Ewing said at the ceremony. “I’m happy and excited. To get to do something like this is once in a lifetime. The fact that it’s called Jenny’s Law, I have no words for what that means to me. Maybe one day I will.”

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