BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A new report from the Center for Evaluation & Education Policy and the Consortium for Education and Social Sciences Research at Indiana University indicates Indiana has one the highest rates of sexual violence and should take more steps to address the issue. The report “Sexual Violence Prevention in Indiana: Toward Safer, Healthier Communities” presents the scope of sexual violence nationally and in Indiana, and examines changes in how this problem is being addressed here and in other states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports approximately one in five women in Indiana have been victims of rape at some point in their lifetime. A 2009 survey indicates that females in ninth to 12th grades in Indiana have the second-highest rate in the nation of forced sexual intercourse.
“These figures are a sobering signal we must do more, earlier, to avert sexual aggression,” said Julia Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at IU and professor of psychological and brain sciences and clinical psychiatry. Heiman is the report co-author, along with CEEP and CESSR Director Jonathan Plucker, also a professor of educational psychology and cognitive science in the IU School of Education, and Katie Cierniak, graduate research assistant at CEEP and CESSR.
“Prevention is so crucial and underappreciated nationwide as a tool to reduce rape and sexual abuse,” Heiman said. “Even a 10 percent decrease, which I am confident is possible in Indiana, would impact thousands of lives and the associated health and human costs.”
The report shows women and youth are the most likely to be sexually assaulted, but there are related impacts on their families, bystanders and communities. Along with the physical and emotional costs of sexual violence, there are also economic impacts. The report cites CDC data indicating that intimate partner rape, physical assault and stalking cost society more than $5.8 billion each year, of which $4.1 billion is for health care costs.
For several decades, sexual violence has been mostly addressed as a criminal justice matter, dealing with instances after they occur. Now, government and other agencies are approaching it as a serious public health issue and focusing on efforts to develop and implement a primary prevention approach that seeks to stop sexual violence.
“Sexual violence often goes unreported because it can be difficult to talk about it,” said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin. “This report, and others, is critical to putting sexual violence in the forefront of public health. It is time for us as a community to put our uncomfortable feelings aside and focus on education and prevention.”
Researchers and policymakers in Indiana are hindered by the lack of reliable, comprehensive statistics.
- The majority of assaults are not reported to law enforcement or health agencies. A 2003 study to provide estimates of rapes in Indiana indicated the prevalence is much higher than reported. The CEEP report points out that the study did not include victims younger than 18 and males, and it did not include attempted rapes, alcohol- or drug-facilitated rapes, incapacitation rapes or statutory rapes
- Indiana is one of just three states without a centralized crime collection program certified by the FBI. Only about 30 percent of Indiana’s law enforcement agencies collect and report data voluntarily for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.
The Indiana Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Council, facilitated by the Indiana State Department of Health, includes a coalition of organizations around the state that are taking steps to address the problem. As part of a five-year “Indiana Sexual Violence Prevention Plan,” the state is working toward improving data collection to get a more accurate indication of the problem. The plan also includes support to a variety of prevention initiatives and programs around the state, providing grants of $10,000 to $15,000 to several individual organizations. The plan also calls for new legislation supporting prevention efforts.
The report concludes with recommendations for researchers, school officials and policymakers, such as closer work between researchers and policymakers to better measure the scope of sexual violence and promoting successful strategies used in other states. The recommendations include:
- Researchers working with policymakers to develop a uniform survey measuring sexual violence in each state and encouraging better study into the prevalence of sexual violence on minority and disabled populations.
- School-based initiatives, including age-appropriate prevention efforts as part of the K-12 curriculum; interpersonal respect and positive sexual norms campaigns as part of the high school curriculum; and involving older students in school-based prevention efforts to provide role models for younger students.
- School staff receiving training on conflict resolution that promotes positive behavior and condemns violence.
- Policymakers promoting statewide summits to discuss and promote sexual violence prevention initiatives while pushing legislatures to pass regulations establishing prevention programs.
- Policymakers familiarizing state officials and the public with successful policies and prevention efforts in other states while working with health care agencies, nonprofits, researchers and other experts to create comprehensive, fact-based and communitywide prevention initiatives.
CEEP, one of the country’s leading nonpartisan education policy and program evaluation centers, promotes and supports rigorous evaluation and research primarily, but not exclusively, for educational, human services and nonprofit organizations. Center projects address state, national and international education questions. CEEP is part of the IU School of Education.
The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University is dedicated to advancing sexual health and knowledge through research on sexual behavior, gender and reproduction.
The Indiana State Department of Health promotes and provides essential public health services to protect Indiana communities. For more information on sexual violence, visit www.statehealth.in.gov.