Governor signs law giving assault victims more time to seek justice
By Lacey Watt
March 25, 2020
Legislation that allows rape victims extra time to seek justice against their assailants represents progress, even if it falls short, says the state senator who pushed for the reforms in the 2020 session of the General Assembly.
“I’m pleased to have made some progress being made,” Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, said. “It’s another opportunity for victims to hopefully find justice, and while it’s not a complete elimination of the statute of limitations, it does give detectives a reason to speak with the accused, and see if they can get a confession or find evidence.”
Crider’s bill, Senate Enrolled Act 109, was among dozens of bills Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed into law since the end of the legislative session. Three of the bills, including SEA 109, affect the criminal justice system. The others SEA 146, which allows assault victims to get emotional support, and SEA 216, which protects the personal information of people working in the criminal justice system.
SEA 109 extends the statute of limitations in rape or sexual assault cases by five years past the age of 31 if there is new DNA evidence discovered, a photo or video recording is found or if the person who committed the offense confessed.
At a House committee hearing on the bill in February, Crider said that the bill is not a perfect option because he would prefer eliminating the statute of limitations all together. Instead, the bill allows the extra time in the event new evidence is found. The legislation is expected to have the greatest impact on the victims of childhood sex abuse who may not have come forward until they reached adulthood.
Crider has been working on legislation to make it easier for rape and sexual assaults victims to get justice and see their attackers punished. In 2015, he worked on legislation that came to be known as Jenny’s Law, named for a student who was raped at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.
The rapist confessed to the crime years after the attack but could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. Jenny’s Law allowed charges to be filed as long as five years after the statute of limitations expired and now the newest law has the potential to allow more time to file criminal charges.
Then, in the 2019 legislative session, Crider authored a bill that enables victims to track their rape kits through the criminal justice system. That bill allows victims to register for updates about the kits as well as requiring law enforcement to provide the Victim Services Division of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute with information about their storage.
Crider said the shortage of sexual assault nurses is an issue he wants to focus on in the next legislative session.
He also wants to have a bill on human trafficking heard at a summer study committee, saying he wants to raise the penalty from a Level 5 felony to Level 4 felony.
“The thing that is so concerning is often times, partially with human trafficking situation, it’s going on right in front of people and they don’t realize what they are seeing happen,” Crider said.
SEA 146, authored by Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Syracuse, allows sexual assault victims the right to have an advocate or victim service provider with them before a forensic medical exam or during an investigation, and with the collection of sexual assault forensic evidence.
SEA 146 helps victims much deal with and process their emotions and trauma, like survivor Samantha McCoy of Bedford, who testified at a legislative hearing that having an advocate during her process would have helped her better deal with her trauma.
The third bill, SEA 216, no longer allows a person in prison, county jail, detention facility or in a community corrections program to have access to public records of personal information of a correctional officer, law enforcement officer, judge, victim or their family.
All three bills take effect July 1.