HAMMOND — Reports of child sex abuse in Indiana are on track to increase for the fourth consecutive year.
And, as North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan is learning, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I thought we had an accelerated amount of child sexual assault in Indiana,” Mrvan said when he began his No More Secrets campaign.
“It’s actually a good thing that so many people are coming forward.”
Mrvan launched the No More Secrets campaign to end child sex abuse three years ago after reading a report that Indiana has the second-most reported cases of child sex abuse of any state in the country.
The campaign has pushed Mrvan to champion several legislative proposals, organize resource-oriented workshops in countless Indiana schools, and travel the state in hopes of making an uncomfortable conversation a little easier to have.
In the first year of the campaign, Mrvan said 73 children came forward in small-group forums in North Township schools with substantiated reports of abuse. With resources like Child Protective Services and Fair Haven in attendance, Mrvan said these children were able to get the help they needed.
“When you’re advocating for these kids and and telling them ‘we believe you,’ that’s the first step,” Mrvan said.
The trustee’s latest iteration of the campaign will bring its third annual No More Secrets Symposium to Purdue University Northwest this weekend.
On Saturday, experts from Purdue’s College of Nursing and School of Education, as well as Highland-based Fair Haven Center, will present on topics like body safety, predator manipulation and internet safety.
“No More Secrets goes beyond raising awareness,” Mrvan said in a news release. “It provides victims a safe environment to overcome painful memories that transform them into survivors.”
The campaign has seen significant successes in the last year.
In May, Hamilton County's Delaware Township also put on its own No More Secrets Symposium, attracting 125 parents and children in the northeast Indianapolis suburb of Fishers. The township has continued its No More Secrets efforts, organizing monthly lunch and learn events with area coaches and athletes.
Mrvan said he’s also working with trustees in southwest Indiana to help them launch their own No More Secrets program.
“It’s inspiring to see it grow,” Mrvan said. “It’s motivating and inspiring to see community partners come together to advocate for resources for survivors of sex abuse.”
Last summer, legislation co-authored in 2017 by Mrvan’s father, state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, went into effect requiring public and private schools provide age appropriate instruction to kindergarten through 12th-grade students about child sex abuse warning signs and resources.
The law also sets reporting requirements for public and private school employees should they suspect child abuse is taking place.
This session, Sen. Mrvan has co-authored legislation seeking to require supervised parenting time of all children belonging to a person convicted of child molesting or exploitation for five years after a sentence has been served. The bill passed the Senate in February and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Mrvan, the trustee, said he is most proud of the survivors and advocates who, through No More Secrets’ growth, have come forward to share their stories so that other can learn from their experiences.
The message he hopes the public takes away: “It’s OK to come forward and get the help you need.”
Saturday’s No More Secrets Child Sexual Abuse Symposium will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in PNW’s Alumni Hall in the Hammond campus’ Student Union Library Building.
Registration is free via the North Township Trustee Office’s Evenbrite page. For more information, contact Community Development Coordinator Rosie Quintanilla at 219-614-1652 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.