FOX59 Investigates the Number of Unprosecuted Rape Cases in Indiana
Fox 59, February 15, 2017, by Lindsey Eaton, Updated at 11:40PM, February 15, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — So many reported cases of sexual assault never make it to court. Finding the perpetrator isn’t always the hardest part for some Hoosier victims, it’s getting the punishment for that person.
FOX59 spoke with a victim named Leigha. For Leigha’s protection, we hid her face and didn’t reveal her last name.
“I think it’s time for people to know that this isn’t ok and I’m still not ok and I’m not the only that’s been dealing with this,” said Leigha.
The 20-year-old filed a police report last January accusing a man of raping her. Leigha told us it took her a couple days to gain the courage to go to authorities, but once she did she told detectives the man’s name, where the assault happened and even confessed that she was under the influence of laced marijuana. Leigha even shared that her attacker told her “to never tell anyone what happened and never contact him again.”
Leigha’s case never made it court, the reason was because there was evidence to press charges.
“It was just really, really infuriating. I was so angry and I’m still angry actually. I’m still not okay with the way they handled it,” said Leigha.
According to Indiana state documents, there were 324 rape charges filed in 2015 but only 50 rape convictions. Hancock County had one rape conviction and that was the only one in that county’s past decade.
“We recognized that that’s not acceptable. We are not going to let that happen again,” said Brett Eaton, Hancock County Prosecutor.
Sometimes a rape case can turn into a case of ‘he said, she said.’ In order to prosecute any case there needs to be clear and convincing evidence.
“Ultimately, sometimes it can come down to there may be only two people in the world that know what happened on a particular day at a particular time and you’ve really got to look at all the factors if that’s enough evidence to proceed,” said Eaton.
Hancock County has done a lot of work in the past year to improve the process of how reported rape cases are handled. It can take months or even years for a case to get through the legal system.
“It’s frustrating but it tells us that one, they’re coming forward. Victims are coming forward so that’s encouraging. It tells us we need to do more and we are going to do more,” said Leigha.
The Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking is working to improve the state’s response to victims and making sure those victims report immediately.
“A victim’s body is a crime scene, I hate to say it that way but there is evidence that is important,” said Kristen Pulice, with the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking.
The state’s caseload only shows those victims brave enough to step forward and speak. There’s even more who chose to stay silent.
“A rapist either has raped before or will rape again. I don’t know how many women he’s hurt before me and I don’t know how many women he will hurt but the fact that he’s still around terrifies me and it makes me sick that he can just live his life normally,” said Leigha.
Hundreds of Hoosier victims had their cases tossed. As far as the law is concerned, it’s a closed case.
“Victims are not getting the justice that they deserve,” said Pulice.
For victims like Leigha, no one was arrested or held accountable and even if the courts consider it a closed case, to her it will never be.
“I’m not ever going to forget it, but I will one day not let it control my life,” said Leigha.
Police say it is crucial to report a suspected rape immediately. If you need to speak to an advocate confidentially, you can call The National Sexual Assault hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).