A national analysis of sexual violence by the Centers for Disease Control found 15 percent of high school-age females in Indiana reported having forced sexual intercourse in 2009.
It was the second-highest percentage in the nation and 3 percentage points higher than the rest of the country.
The CDC says the percentage of Indiana girls who are raped or sexually assaulted is now 17.3 percent — two-thirds higher than the national average.
And experts say the sad fact is the actual number might be even higher because up to half of sexual assaults never get reported.
The Indiana University researchers who analyzed the 2009 findings said the available data don’t explain why Indiana ranks so poorly. They say the state’s best approach, though, is to raise awareness of the issue.
The researchers recommend schools create more effective and age-appropriate programs and improve training of school staff. They also call for better ways to track, create and fund community-wide sex education programs.
The state Law Committee is expected to discuss the issue of teen sexual assault next month. Members must weigh the researchers’ recommendations.
None of these steps will come without cost, but surely our children are worth the expense.
The experts said the attackers in most cases are not strangers hiding in the bushes. Toby Strout, executive director of Middle Way House in Bloomington, said 80 percent or more of unwanted sexual activity involves people who know each other. Frequently, the victim and the attacker are actually dating or in a relationship.
The national Sexual Violence Resource Center in Pennsylvania says 1 in 5 women will be a victim of sexual assault by the time she finishes college. The best way to lower that number, the center says, is by raising awareness and by holding the perpetrators responsible for their actions.
The first step is to acknowledge the issue and talk about it. Sex isn’t an easy subject to talk about. Most of us just aren’t comfortable bringing it up.
But this statistic should be enough to spur all of us — not just our state legislators — to action: According to this study, nearly 1 in 5 high school-age girls reported being raped.
That’s a number we simply can’t tolerate.