Changes in the rights for victims of sexual assault in Indiana became effective
July 1, 2020. The new laws provide that a sexual assault victim have the right to the collection of forensic evidence. The victim has the right to speak with a victim advocate, victim service provider, victim assistant, or social worker while in the hospital and during the course of the investigation.
The law also requires a law enforcement officer and the medical provider inform the victim of these rights before commencing an interview. Law enforcement and medical providers must be provide the victim with a document explaining these rights upon their initial interaction.
Additionally, increased legal protection for sexual assault victims in the new law will prevent the victim’s statements to victim service providers being used in court unless the victim consents. The legislative intent is to encourage the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults. Most sexual assaults are unreported or underreported. However, when a victim decides to report a sexual assault the victim’s confidence in the knowledge of their rights as well as the commitment to maintaining confidentiality is paramount.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tami Napier briefed Marshall County law enforcement agencies on these new victim’s rights. Napier conducted two live training sessions for the county’s law enforcement agencies on June 16, 2020. Napier said, “Sexual assaults are an attack on the most basic of human freedoms—that of security in one’s own body. Clarifying a victim’s rights upon making a report is a crucial step to encouraging reporting, assisting investigations and cooperating in the prosecution of these extremely difficult cases.”
Napier went on to say that one of the reasons victims underreport sexual assaults is that, once reported, they may feel re-victimized by the process of investigation and prosecution. “The sexual assault victim will be informed of their rights by law enforcement and the medical service provider before anything else happens. Giving a sexual assault victim this information right away makes it clear to them that their rights will be recognized and respected.”
The Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office distributed the brochure of victim rights countywide for immediate implementation by law enforcement agencies whenever a sexual assault is reported. Napier said that she hopes that the legislative recognition and sensitivity to these particularly heinous crimes will comfort a victim at one of the most traumatic times of their lives.
“Whatever we can do to support a sexual assault victim from the initial reporting of the alleged crime through prosecution is something we place a very high value on and we will not compromise on our commitment to their rights.” Napier said. She went on to emphasize that the Prosecutor’s Office has a staff member dedicated to victim services if a case is filed. “Our resolution is to support the victims throughout the process.”