Christina Hale

Christina Hale

Provided

Gorgeous women trying to make it big in Hollywood. The casting couch. Men abusing their power and position.

The fact that so many assaults have happened to women (and some men) that are familiar to us through their fame and celebrity leaves many nonplussed. Others have been compelled to tell their personal stories of assault and victimization.

In Indiana, no one should be surprised. Here, even our littlest kids face sexual assault and rape every day, and we are not doing nearly enough to help. In fact, the problem is getting worse.

We must stop describing these problems and get to work on preventing them.

If you need convincing, just count up the cases of sexually transmitted diseases of all kinds in kids ages 0 to 5 being treated at urgent care clinics and emergency rooms across our state. Children may not know how to report these crimes, yet sometimes they bear the evidence in horrible and life-altering ways.

Here in Indiana, we should know better. These kids aren’t famous. They are our neighbors and relatives, friends of our own children. They're people we talk to every day and wave to at the bus stop.

One in six girls in Indiana are raped or sexually assaulted by the time they leave high school. One in five face assault on our college campuses.

We also can count the perpetrators we have caught. Please set aside some time to go to the state police website and look up the convicted sex offenders who live near you and those you love. It is beyond scary, particularly when you consider the Department of Justice estimates that only 30 percent of these crimes are reported.

Today many — and, it can be argued, most — predators never get caught.

The IUPUI Global Communicators Center completed a study telling us that most of these crimes in Indiana are perpetrated by someone known and trusted by the child victim — often by someone living in their very own household.

For kids in these situations, their normal is beyond horrific. In their home, it is normal that mom’s boyfriend or, in some extreme cases, their mom, is the abuser.

This is happening more often, particularly as Indiana’s drug addiction rates soar. But there are other trends to pay close attention to as well. In 2014, an Indiana mom, Natisha Hillard, pleaded guilty to selling her infant and 3-year-old daughters for the production of child pornography.

This is not an isolated case, particularly when you consider that 9 percent of online porn is images of infants and toddlers. That was a fact presented this week in Indianapolis at the International Youth Protection Symposium.

In Indiana, the law does not require that public schools teach sex education to our young people, not even that we teach our kids in an age-appropriate way that they own their own bodies — that no one should be touching them where their bathing suit covers.

Keeping our most vulnerable safe from these kinds of crimes is the first necessary step. In Indiana, it is time to climb down from our philosophical high horses and get very practical.

No surprises here. Just a lot of work to be done.

Christina Hale is a Michigan City native and former Indiana legislator and candidate for lieutenant governor. The opinions are the writer's.

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