I recently attended a briefing that left me physically sick to my stomach.
Consider the following statistics from DCS: between July 2011 and June 2012, there were 3,214 cases of substantiated sexual abuse of Indiana children. There were another 1,992 cases of substantiated physical abuse, and 14,802 cases of substantiated neglect.
These are just the cases that were reported, investigated and substantiated. The CDC estimates that fewer than half of rape and sexual assault crimes ever get reported, and it can be very difficult to substantiate those that do get reported. Even when we are counting only substantiated cases, however, in 2009, Indiana females in grades 9-12 had the second highest rate of forced sexual intercourse in the nation. (Indiana’s rate is 17.3% as opposed to the national rate of 10.5. Both rates are scandalous.)
Welcome to Indiana, where our elected officials talk a lot about our low taxes and not at all about our abysmal social health indicators.
Most of the abuse that occurs is what the reports delicately label “partner” or “intimate” violence–meaning that these young girls are being exploited by boyfriends, fathers, stepfathers, “funny” uncles and others within their homes and communities. In some of our more rural precincts, these behaviors are tacitly accepted or shrugged off. “Boys will be boys.” (I should note here that young boys are by no means safe from sexual assault, although fewer males experience it, and we should be no less outraged by their exploitation.)
The consequences of this behavior are costly for both the victims and society. Research suggests that victims of sexual violence are likely to suffer mental and physical ailments in later life: anxiety, post-traumatic-stress disorder, fear, depression…They are also more likely to attempt suicide.
Nationally, health costs attributable to rape and sexual assault have been estimated at $4.1 billion.
The familial environments within which these assaults occur makes this an incredibly difficult behavior to prevent. But there is at least one thing Indiana lawmakers can and should do pronto: commit the state to the crime data collection program certified by the FBI. Currently, Indiana has no state legislation requiring the collection of crime data. Approximately 30% of Indiana law enforcement agencies voluntarily report their statistics for inclusion in the UCR (Uniform Crime Report), but Indiana is one of only three states that lacks a centralized crime reporting program.
It’s bad enough that only a small percentage of rapes are ever reported; the least we could do is keep track of those that are.
Here’s a thought: how about we ask our lawmakers to divert some of the time and energy they are spending trying to marginalize GLBT citizens to efforts that might actually protect Indiana children?
Here’s another: Governor Pence has certainly been willing to name new “commissions” and “panels” to take over duties that were previously the responsibility of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Perhaps he could take a rest from trying to undermine the election results, and appoint a commission to address the ongoing, scandalous exploitation of Indiana children?