DOUG ROSS: Region transplant addressing sexual assaults

2014-04-18T00:00:00Z 2014-04-18T00:13:22Z DOUG ROSS: Region transplant addressing sexual assaultsBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

State Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, phoned me last week after reading The Times editorial on sexual assaults ("Better response to sexual assaults needed," April 7). She was excited to hear someone else cares deeply about the issue.

She was also thrilled when she read the line in the editorial calling for good research on this issue. She's working on it.

Is it mostly date rape or incest? Who are the offenders? And who are their victims? And under what circumstances? These questions need to be answered before the best approach to preventing the crime can be determined.

Hale, who joined my colleagues Robert Blaszkiewicz and Crista Zivanovic on this week's nwi.com Political Roundtable, is just finishing her first term in the Indiana House of Representatives.

Her legislation seeking funding for a study on sexual assault data didn't get a hearing in the House.

Instead, she worked with state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, to get funding this year for study on sexual assaults. Merritt tucked it inside one of his bills. Good for him.

Merritt is a name worth remembering in Northwest Indiana. He has been in the region doing research on issues like abandoned, derelict buildings.

Hale is worth remembering, too. She's a region rat, transplanted to Indianapolis. Hale is visiting her mother in Michigan City today.

Hale's crusade to address sexual assaults could well be a region issue — it's so bad here that a standalone facility to help victims is being created in Lake County — but it's a statewide problem. A major problem.

You might already know Indiana ranks second worst for sexual assaults on high school girls. But did you know there's no real data for boys? Males can be victims, too.

And did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks this data nationally, has a different definition than Indiana law? I didn't.

There's a lot of work to be done on this issue.

Across Indiana, Hale noted, there are more than 11,000 registered sex offenders. And that's only the ones on the registry, not offenders who were caught before the law took effect or who were never convicted.

Then there are rape kits across the state that haven't been processed quickly as they should be.

Or the five-year statute of limitations for a crime that has long-lasting consequences for the victim.

At Indiana colleges and universities, "there's a terrible problem" because there isn't a standardized reporting system, Hale said.

Indiana is second only to Wyoming when it comes to sexual assaults upon high school girls.

"Our girls in Indiana just aren't safe," Hale said.

That's disturbing, but true. One in six high school girls in Indiana have been sexually assaulted. That's 17 percent, compared to the national percentage of 10 percent.

Hale's actions to address this issue should come as welcome news to everyone.

Except the filth who victimize innocents.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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