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Indiana Same-Sex Assault Cases Cannot Be Classified As Rape

Same-sex assaults comparable to rape are prosecuted under the state's "criminal deviate conduct" law, not as "rape."

City County

Photo: Damon Taylor-Flickr

Marion County Courts in the Indianapolis City-County Building.

Police in Marion and Monroe Counties are investigating the cases of two men who say they were sexually assaulted in separate incidents earlier this week. But if the state files charges in the cases, it will not be accusing the perpetrators of rape.

Rape is among the most serious of sex crimes in the Indiana code. It is a class B felony, or class A if deadly force is used or the victim is drugged. A person convicted of rape can spend six to 20 years in prison.

But according to Indiana law, the term “rape” only applies to non-consensual intercourse between members of the opposite sex.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Kim Rasheed says people often use the word rape to describe sexual crimes that fall outside the strict legal definition.

“It’s the same situation where people, when their houses are broken into, they feel that they’ve been robbed. But under the statutes, if you’re not present, it’s actually a burglary,” she said.

But if the code’s definition of rape seems narrow, Monroe County Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Veidlinger says the law punishes perpetrators of same-sex abuse just as stringently as those who commit rape.

“It bothers me that there is a perception, perhaps, that same-sex sexual assaults are not taken as seriously as different-sex sexual assaults,” Veidlinger says. ”Because I know the code at least provides for them to be taken as seriously.”

Indiana prosecutes those crimes under a law that forbids “criminal deviate conduct.” Veidlinger says that includes forced oral-genital contact and any kind of penetration that is not covered by the rape law.

Those crimes are in the same class of felonies as rape and people convicted can go to jail for just as long. Still, Veidlinger says not everyone is happy with the way the law is written.

“I’ve heard some people who don’t like the term “criminal deviate conduct” – that that’s offensive, calling it ‘deviate.’ In fact I hear that frequently, just because I work with this statute,” Veidlinger says.

She added that it is possible some people object to the current law because they believe the word “rape” should apply to all sex crimes of a comparable nature, such as the ones currently prosecuted as deviate conduct.

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