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Legislature set in 2014 to seek solutions to teen sexual assault crisis

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For immediate release:
Dec. 19, 2013

  

STATEHOUSE - State Rep. Christina Hale (D-Indianapolis) said today that the Indiana General Assembly will have the chance in 2014 to take the first steps in enacting groundbreaking reforms that will help protect children from rape and sexual assault.

Members of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee today approved legislation proposed by Hale that would pave the way for studies to determine the size of the problem facing teens across Indiana, help determine how to connect victims with protective services, and implement strategies that can help prevent these crimes from happening.

The proposals would be eligible for consideration when the Legislature returns for its 2014 session in January.

These measures come in response to the shocking national statistics that show nearly one in six girls in Indiana has been sexually assaulted or raped – figures that do not even take into account the fact that up to 50 percent of all sexual assaults are never reported.

“I believe there is no more urgent problem in our state at this time,” Hale told committee members. “But for us to effectively address this issue, it is important for us to find out why we have this problem in Indiana.

“We need to find out where these crimes are taking place, whether it is a rural or urban issue, and what factors that family and school play in these incidents,” she continued. “It is a problem with constantly evolving circumstances, especially with the impact that social media can have on our young people.

“We must first collect the data that can help us understand this problem, then use the information to form programs, policies and laws that will provide answers in the most expedient, effective and efficient means possible to protect our children from sexual crimes,” Hale noted.

Hale is asking for two studies.

One—to be conducted by the Commission on Improving the State of Children in Indiana—will study and evaluate the underreporting of crimes against children.

The second would determine the number of people who are the victims of crimes of domestic and sexual violence, the reasons why these crimes are underreported, the best practices to improve reporting, and the most effective means of connecting victims with proper treatment services. This study would be conducted through either the Indiana Department of Health or the state’s Office of Women’s Health.

“The shocking statistics indicate that it is beyond time for Indiana to get to work and do something,” Hale said. “One of our state’s most vulnerable populations is clearly not safe at all, and we cannot let this situation go on for any longer. With the committee’s blessings, I hope that we can begin our work to protect them in the 2014 session.”

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