The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

March 19, 2014

New attention on sex assaults on youth

Youth sexual assault in Indiana is a troubling issue that has not received the attention it deserves. That’s about to change, thanks to the persistent efforts of Indianapolis Democrat state Rep. Christina Hale and a willing Legislature.

The Indiana House of Representatives is backing a plan to study the number of youth sexual assaults and rapes in the state. House members voted — unanimously! — in favor of the measure.

The strong legislative support clearly indicates that Hale was effective in her session-long campaign to raise awareness about the high number of youth sexual assaults in the state and convince fellow lawmakers the time had come to find out why this is happening.

The statistics, as Hale states, are shocking. Indiana is ranked among the worst states in the nation for sexual assaults of young people. In a Flashpoint essay on the subject published in the Sunday, Jan. 26, issue of the Tribune-Star, Hale cited a 2008 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing the rate of Indiana high school-age girls that had been raped or sexually assaulted was 17.3 percent. That’s almost one in six Hoosier girls.

In contrast, the national rate was 10.5 percent.

The CDC also states that the statistics don’t fully reflect the scope of the problem because up to 50 percent of all sexual assaults are never reported.

Hale calls the situation “outrageous and unacceptable.” We couldn’t agree more.

This summer, a House committee will study the issue and examine the causes of these crimes. It will try to determine who commits them and where they are committed. It’s a complex issue that is begging for answers.

We commend Hale for her aggressive approach to this issue. Being a Democrat in a legislature that has super majorities of Republicans in both chambers, as well as a Republican governor, means there was no guarantee her plea for action would get a hearing. But this is not a partisan issue, and should not be treated as such.

Therefore, we also credit GOP legislative leaders for not allowing party affiliation to get in the way of doing the right thing.

It’s time to attack this ugly problem. The House study committee’s work cannot start soon enough.

— Tribune Star

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