Indiana petition to change sexual assault law gains momentum

South Bend, Ind. Indiana rape victims and survivor advocates are petitioning to eliminate the statute of limitations to report a sexual assault in Indiana.

The way the law reads now, most rape victims have just 5 years to report a sexual assault before the statute of limitations runs out and they can no longer prosecute.

Joy Evans Ryder, a sexual assault survivor and current victim advocate, has been working in recent years to help give victims a voice.

"I am a survivor myself, having been sexually assaulted at 15 years of age by my youth director at my church," Ryder told NewsCenter16.

Ryder knows who assaulted her, but in Indiana, she would need to report her assault by the time she turned 20.

"Knowing now that my statute of limitations has run out, after researching it, I really want to get this changed and eliminated for future victims," she said.

Sharon Hurt is the Assistant Director for the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County and agrees that there should be no time limit when it comes to both healing and justice for victims.

"At the time of the incident, the victim might be too afraid, too ashamed to come forward," Hurt said. "It takes that time to heal and to become stronger and she should be allowed to seek prosecution whether it's five years, 10 years, 20 years or more."

The petition on is addressed to the Indiana State Senate, State House, and Gov. Mike Pence. It was launched about 5 weeks ago and has already amassed nearly 2,500 signatures.

"We're hoping to have 5,000 by the end of July," Ryder said. "That is our goal and this really speaks to legislatures -- that's what we're really working hard for."

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is why advocates are making the extra push to educate women on the statute and on the ways that it could be amended.

"The thing is, it's not that one time rapist, it's the serial rapist that this could eliminating," Hurt said. "This statute could help to prevent him from hurting so many other victims."

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