INDIANAPOLIS — A sexual assault victim has started an online petition aimed at lengthening Indiana’s statute of limitations on rape cases to “at least 20 years” from its current five.
Someday, she would like to see it eliminated.
Jenny Wendt, 35, started her petition at Change.org on Monday afternoon. She had accumulated nearly 700 signatures as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“I am overwhelmed,” Wendt said. “I have had a lot of women tell me their personal stories.”
The support she has received may be one factor encouraging Wendt to try to change the law. Originally reluctant to show her face in an exclusive Indianapolis Star report on the case, Wendt now has a photo posted on her page on the website, which hosts online petitions for causes. She is planning to do additional interviews with other media outlets.
Wendt was raped at her Indianapolis apartment in the spring of 2005. Her assailant, Bart Bareither, was a teaching assistant at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where Wendt was a nursing student and where she received her degree.
Too fearful to report the crime at the time, Wendt decided she wanted to prosecute this year after Bareither, 39, confessed to Marion County sheriff’s deputies that he had committed the rape. Wendt learned earlier this month, however, that even though Bareither confessed to the crime, he is protected by Indiana’s statute of limitations, which applies to all rapes except those that can be proved to have caused serious bodily injury.
On Wednesday, Wendt met with several lawmakers at the Statehouse at the invitation of Republican state Sen. Michael Crider.
“We talked about what changes we might be able to make in the code,” Crider said. “I will be looking at what other states do on the statute of limitations. My feeling is that (sexual assault) traumatizes a person at a level that five years is far too short for any circumstance that involves violence like that. Here’s a young lady whose life was dramatically changed by that event.”
Crider said he plans to introduce legislation next year to toughen Indiana law. He will refer to Wendt’s petition, he said, when he brings up the issue in the General Assembly.
Wendt expressed gratitude for how lawmakers received her.
She promised to remain active in pushing for change.
“I want to change this law for every woman from here forward,” she said. “I hope no one will ever have to deal with Bart Bareither or anyone like him again, ever.”