IU CEEP report documents significant sexual violence problem in Indiana, focuses on need for prevention
A new Indiana University study provides policy makers, school officials and researchers with recommendations for reducing sexual violence in Indiana, which has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the country, particularly among young women in high school.
"Sexual Violence Prevention in Indiana: Toward Safer, Healthier Communities," a report from the Center for Evaluation & Education Policy and the Consortium for Education and Social Sciences Research, details the scope of the violence, which can wreak havoc on victims' lives long after the assaults and add billions of dollars annually in health care costs.
"The statistics in Indiana 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 and professor of psychological and brain sciences and clinical psychiatry. "Prevention is so crucial and underappreciated nationwide as a tool to reduce rape and sexual abuse. 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 is authored by Heiman; Jonathan Plucker, who is director of CEEP and CESSR, and professor of educational psychology and cognitive science in the IU School of Education; and Katie Cierniak, graduate research assistant at CEEP and CESSR.
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.
Describing sexual violence as a "multi-faceted and complex public health issue," the report offers a range of recommendations, from supporting and strengthening school-based programs, to familiarizing the public and state officials with successful approaches in other states. The goal is to prevent partner violence, problems from sexting, and other potential forms of violence before they occur.
"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."
The recommendations include:
- 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.
- Developing a uniform survey to measure sexual violence in each state.
- Better tracking of sexual assault on minority and disabled populations.
- 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.
- Identifying 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.
The full report is available on the CEEP website.
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.