Indiana agency issues plan to fight sexual assault

The Indiana State Department of Health has issued a five-year plan to fight sexual assault in the state that focuses on prevention and education, particularly for children who are in high school or younger.

The plan was released this week and required a year to finish. It presents goals, including bolstering local policies regarding sexual assaults and promoting social behavior that would reduce sexual violence.

“By engaging individuals, groups and community organizations in implementing primary prevention into their daily habits, work and organizational goals, we hope to see decreases in the rates of sexual violence in Indiana,” State Department of Health spokesman Ken Severson said.

According to 2011 data cited in the State Department of Health’s plan, 14.5 percent of high school-aged girls and 5.2 percent of high school-aged boys in Indiana report being physically forced to have unwanted sexual intercourse.

The plan doesn’t include goals for college campuses in Indiana. Tracey Krueger, interim executive director of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault, said that’s OK because many universities already have available prevention programs.

Sexual assault is addressed during freshman orientation for Ball State University and University of Evansville. The two schools also have continuing education.

New students at Ball State and the University of Southern Indiana are sent to an online training module that provides education on topics such as sexual assault and alcohol safety.

The issue of campus sexual assault has long been prevalent, said Bryan Rush, University of Southern Indiana’s dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator.

“Thankfully, though, we’re now in a position where we’re creating an environment where we’re addressing it, and we’re helping folks feel comfortable to come forward to get attention they need and resources they need,” Rush said.

Indiana University Title IX officer Emily Springston said the plan from the State Department of Health lines up closely with the university’s efforts to prevent sexual assault. She said that prevention and creating a community that encourages relationships that are healthy are two areas already focused on by the university.

“What’s wonderful about the state is that none of us are trying to do it alone,” she said. “We need a comprehensive approach from when kids are young, all the way up before they even come to college.”


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