EDITORIAL: Rape by deception should be a crime

The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·2 min read

Mar. 5—In her freshman year at Purdue University, Abbi Finney was visiting her boyfriend in his dorm room.

"People were pretty much just hanging out, playing video games," she recalled in an interview with ABC News in January 2019.

By 2 a.m. Finney had fallen asleep in bed with her boyfriend. His friends had sacked out on a futon below. At some point, Finney woke up to the realization that someone was fondling her. The fondling led to sex.

Only later did she realize the man in bed with her was not her boyfriend.

To her, what had happened was clear. She had been raped.

She tracked down her boyfriend and told him. She went to the hospital for a rape exam. She reported the assault to police. She called her mom, who immediately got the family together and drove to West Lafayette.

Questioned about the incident by police, Finney's assailant, Donald Grant Ward, admitted he had waited for her boyfriend to leave the room and then climbed into bed with Finney.

"Ward indicated he had sexual intercourse with (the) victim ... knowing she believed him to be her boyfriend," police said in an affidavit supporting the rape charge.

The case, it seemed, was open and shut.

Except it wasn't.

Indiana law says rape can happen in one of three ways. The first is when a victim is compelled by force or threat of force. The second is when the victim is unconscious or unaware of the attack. And the third is when the victim is mentally disabled to a degree that makes consent impossible.

Rape by deception, it turns out, is not a crime in Indiana or most other states.

When the case went to trial, Ward's defense attorney, Kirk Freeman, argued that tricking someone into having sex might be immoral, but it isn't illegal. The jury agreed, finding his client not guilty.

The case drew the attention of Sally Siegrist, the state representative whose district took in Purdue University. "I was so angry my stomach was in a knot," Siegrist told ABC News for the 2019 report.

Siegrist set out to change the law, and she has continued that effort even after losing her bid for reelection.

House Bill 1176 passed the Indiana House of Representatives last month by a vote of 90-4. The measure is now pending in the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.

The Senate should pass this bill, and Gov. Eric Holcomb should sign it. It's time to make rape by deception a crime in Indiana.