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People Magazine
December 04, 2018 3:50 pm

Abigail Finney thought she was having sex with her boyfriend. In his dorm room at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Finney had fallen asleep with him cuddling beside her in his loft bed. Elsewhere in the same room, three of her boyfriend’s buddies were crashed on a futon after a casual night that involved a lot of video games and a little drinking, although Finney says she stayed sober.

Later, in a hazy half-awake state, Finney felt a hand from behind fondling her over her T-shirt. Keeping quiet so as not to awake the others in the dark room, she allowed further groping from the man in bed with her, which led to brief intercourse, all the while with her back to him. The sex ended when Finney said she had to go to the bathroom—and only after she returned, as she started to climb back into the loft, did she realize the man in bed with her wasn’t her boyfriend, but rather one of his friends.

Her report of the incident eventually led to a rape charge against Donald Grant Ward, who was acquitted earlier this year of any wrongdoing in the February 2017 encounter, reports the Lafayette Journal & Courier. Under Indiana law that defines rape as an act of aggression or involving an unwilling victim, Ward can’t be convicted just because Finney, who consented to the sex, believed he was someone other than who she thought he was, Ward’s attorney Kirk Freeman told TV station WLFI. Freeman suggested that some men embrace all sorts of identities to convince women to have sex with them.

“[L]ots of women this weekend are going to have sex with Navy Seals, going to have sex with football heroes, going to have sex with guys that rescue kittens from the middle of the interstate, and are going to have sex with men who tell them, ‘I love you,’ and, ‘I’m ready for a commitment,’” he said.  “Just because they are lying doesn’t make it rape.” Freeman declined PEOPLE’s request for comment. PEOPLE also reached out to Finney, who was not immediately available.

“I feel violated. This feels wrong”

The acquittal of Ward has led Finney to advocate for changing rape statutes to allow for the crime of rape by deception or impersonation. She is speaking now about the case in hopes of encouraging that reform. “I’m less protected than property in the state,” she said in an interview with WLFI. “Like, my body can just be taken and used and it’s not a crime.”

When Finney first saw Ward lying in the bed she’d just left after having sex, she thought she was being pranked, she told BuzzFeed. She asked about the whereabouts of her boyfriend, and the others in the room said they didn’t know. She then discovered that the key to her own nearby dorm room was missing. She went there and found her boyfriend, who told her he’d been sleeping in her room for hours. Finney told him what happened, and after the boyfriend stormed back to his room, Finney says she texted two girlfriends to ask what she should do.

She was later accompanied by her boyfriend to the hospital and the police station, and Ward was arrested that night. According to an affidavit of probable cause in the case, “Ward indicated he had sexual intercourse with Victim #1 knowing she believed him to be her boyfriend.” Ward was charged with two counts of rape. But after a three-day trial in which his attorney argued that Ward’s conduct was “ungentlemanly” but not illegal under Indiana law, a jury found him not guilty in January.

Ward was banned for a year from the Purdue campus and is no longer enrolled there. Finney, after taking off a semester during which she sought treatment for stress and depression, is now back in school, and she and her boyfriend remain together.

Sally Siegrist, a former Indiana state legislator, unsuccessfully tried to reform the state’s rape law in the wake of Finney’s case. “I’m not sure we could effectively legislate all of the cases where somebody lies, because then you get to the point where, OK, the guy said he was on the football team and he’s not,” she said, reports BuzzFeed.

Finney is undeterred in her desire to see change.

“I was pretty angry” after the verdict, Finney said. “I felt like I’d wasted a year of my life because I could’ve been trying to heal, but instead I was reopening the wound over and over again.”

This article originally appeared on People.

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