Hale's sexual assault bill finds Merritt's Lifeline 

By Olivia Covington

Sexual assault victims who were under the influence at the time of their attack could receive more help under a bill that unanimously passed a Senate committee Wednesday.

Under current law, minors who consume alcohol are given legal immunity if they request medical assistance for friends who drink to the point of passing out or requiring other help.

Senate Bill 227 would expand what's known as the Lifeline Law to provide immunity to minors who are victims of sexual assault - even if they have been drinking. It would also protect those who witness and report a crime while they are intoxicated.

The bill's author, Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said college students told him the Lifeline Law is good but "could become a better law" with additional provisions. That, he said, is why he chose to add the extra immunities.

Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, added an amendment to the bill that would create a committee to study ways to prevent sexual crimes in Indiana.

Hale's amendment was added to SB 227 after a similar bill she authored failed to make it out of its House committee. She said, nationally, 10.5 percent of girls will be the victims of sexual assault before they graduate from high school. In Indiana, that number is 17.3 percent, giving the state the second highest sexual assault ranking for girls in the country.

The amendment would require the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to study ways the state could prevent sexual crimes from happening and lower the number of the crimes statewide.

It now moves to the full House for consideration.

Olivia Covington is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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