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Purdue student seeks a rape by impersonation law

In a News 18 exclusive, we talk to the Purdue student who says she was tricked into having sex with a man she thought was her boyfriend in a dark dorm room last year.

Posted: Feb 15, 2018 6:45 PM
Updated: Feb 15, 2018 6:48 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — In a News 18 exclusive, we talk to the Purdue student who says she was tricked into having sex with a man she thought was her boyfriend in a dark dorm room last year.

Donald Ward was acquitted of rape last month. Some believe he's walking free due to a hole in the state's current rape statute.

According to Indiana, what happened to Abigail Finney last year, isn't against the law.

"The person [Donald Ward] was behind me the entire time, I didn't ever look over," said Finney. 

Finney was asleep in her boyfriend's bed when a man she thought was her boyfriend woke her up with his touch and started having sex with her.

"My boyfriend and I had only been together for a month, so it's not like I really knew that well," said Finney. "I remember it being dark and I was kind of groggy and half asleep."

She said she didn't drink that night. She just never would have imagined someone other than her boyfriend would be in her bed. When they finished, she went to the bathroom and came back to discover it was Donald Ward, not her boyfriend.

"I was pretty confused, I thought maybe they were playing a prank on me," said Finney.

When her boyfriend was no where to be found in the room, she feared it wasn't a joke and rushed to go find him.

"What did he say?" asked News 18's Kayla Sullivan.

"It took him a bit to process it," responded Finney. "It took him awhile to believe me just because it is unbelievable."

But Finney's boyfriend came around when Ward confirmed her story. He told police he knew Finney thought he was her boyfriend, but did it anyway.

"I feel disrespected as a person and like I was less than to him," said Finney.

After Ward was acquitted of rape, she felt less than to Indiana too.

"I'm less protected than property in the state," said Finney. "Like, my body can just be taken and used and it's not a crime."

Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington said with Ward's admission of what happened, they thought they had the evidence to convict him.

"But we were aware of the obstacles legally," said Harrington.

In Indiana, a person charged with rape had to knowingly or intentionally cause another person to perform or submit to sexual conduct in one of three ways. Force, mentally disabled or mentally deficient, or unaware the sex is occurring. Harrington argued Finney was unaware because she didn't know who she was consenting to, but a jury thought differently.

So, Harrington got State Representative Sally Siegrist involved.

"We never want another woman to be in that situation where that rape cannot be successfully prosecuted," said Siegrist. 

She's working on a bill to add rape by impersonation to the current statute and wants Finney to know she's determined.

"She not only has my heart, but she has my appreciation for her courage to stand up, go public and help us improve our rape laws and ensure that no other woman has to endure what she has," said Siegrist. 

But Finney said her bravery hasn't come without a price. Not everyone has been supportive.

"Just the aftermath of it has been really rough on me," said Finney. "Seeing people's reactions, feeling like I can't defend myself."

She took a semester off from Purdue because of it. She wants people to know words matter.

"A lot of the comments have just been like finding ways to blame me," said Finney. "Saying that I should have known the difference."

It was difficult for her not to believe them, but hearing it wasn't her fault helps. 

"It was the actions of someone else," said Finney. 

She hopes all the guilt, shame, and pain of going public is worth it someday.

"My main goal throughout all of this is protecting other women," said Finney. "And also just a personal validation of what happened to me was wrong."

State Representative Julie Olthoff is coauthoring Siegrist's bill. Siegrist said Indiana State Police, the Indiana Prosecutor's Association, and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute have all agreed to help write the legislation.

It should be ready to present next session.

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