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Sexual Assault: Indiana's "Silent, Violent Epidemic"

PHOTO: Sexual violence is a growing problem in Indiana; the state leads the nation in numbers of sexual assaults against teens. Photo by: Anita Peppers.
PHOTO: Sexual violence is a growing problem in Indiana; the state leads the nation in numbers of sexual assaults against teens. Photo by: Anita Peppers.
April 7, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - More than one woman in five in Indiana is a rape victim, and more than two in five have been sexually assaulted. Despite the alarming numbers, getting help in recovery can be difficult. According to Anita Carpenter, who heads the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, in nearly half the state's counties, there are very few resources available to help victims, and in some places, none at all.

"We have way too many circumstances where we're receiving a phone call, after the fact, from a victim who is frustrated because they are unable to find services and support," she said.

Carpenter said there is no state funding in Indiana for victims of sex crimes, a priority she hopes can be addressed in the next budget session. In the meantime, she said, they're trying to meet the needs of every victim who reaches out. A hot line, 800-656-HOPE, can direct callers to the closest rape crisis center.

Indiana has a statute of limitations of five years for filing rape charges. Carpenter said the recent Jenny Wendt case, in Marion County, in which the attacker came forward nine years later but couldn't be prosecuted, highlights the need for change.

"We have got to eliminate this statute of limitations in Indiana, so that victims have an opportunity to come forward and have something done about the crime that's been committed against them," she declared.

Carpenter said sexual assault is viewed as a silent, violent epidemic, because misconceptions about it cause some victims to feel they don't have a voice, even if they come forward to report it. She said in 80 percent of cases, the victim knows her attacker.

"This is one in five women, and one in four girls, and one in six boys that are out there being sexually assaulted," she said. "And we just simply don't have enough education out there for the general public to wrap their minds around what that really looks like."

According to the CDC, one in six high-school-aged girls in Indiana has been sexually assaulted, the highest proportion in the country. The Indiana House is backing a plan for a committee to study the causes and research solutions.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN