Pence's EPA battle strands Indiana


Maybe it's just a question of priorities.

In this session of the Indiana General Assembly, state Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, introduced a bill that would gather more information about why the Hoosier state has such an appalling record when it comes to teen sexual assaults.

A recent study revealed that Indiana ranks second in the nation in this disturbing competition. The study showed that 17.3 percent of Indiana girls have been raped or sexually assaulted before they graduate from high school.

Hale's bill was designed to collect information so that we Hoosiers could begin combating the problem. Just before the legislature adjourned for the half-time break of the 2014 session, Hale found out that her bill wouldn't make it out of committee, presumably because the legislators just didn't have time to deal with it.

I'm talking with Hale during my radio show. We're joined by Anita Carpenter of the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Malea Crosby, who was assaulted as a teen-ager and now counsels other victims.

Hale, Carpenter and Crosby discuss the difficulties of finding solutions to this problem - or series of problems - until we discover more of the factors that produced that disturbing 17.3 percent number. That was the point of Hale's bill.

As Hale, Carpenter and Crosby talk, I find myself thinking about the measures the Indiana General Assembly did have time to address before going on break.

The Indiana House of Representatives couldn't get to this bill to study sexual assaults, but the members - under the leadership of House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis - did schedule prolonged hearings in not one but two committees on a proposed state constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to one man and one woman.

Bosma said, over and over again, that the marriage amendment wasn't a priority for him and his caucus.

Apparently there are things that aren't priorities for the House GOP members, such as the marriage amendment, and things that really aren't priorities for them - like figuring out ways to prevent teen-agers and children from being sexually assaulted.

Crosby tells her story. She was attacked when she was in high school. She was out with a boy she knew and agreed to get into the back seat of a car with him. Things went too far too fast.

She tried to tell him no.

Then she screamed and cried no.

He didn't listen.

Afterward, she blamed herself. She didn't feel that she could tell anyone about what had happened because she'd agreed to get into the back seat.

For more than 15 years, she fought battles with depression and self-loathing. She felt isolated from family and friends. It was only when she went to graduate school and became a counselor to others who have been attacked that she found some measure of peace.

The House also found time to consider and approve a bill that would require welfare recipients to take drug tests - despite the fact that the courts have struck down similar measures around the country.

Maybe it was a priority.

Carpenter says that, if anything, the problem of teen sexual assaults is worse than we know. Because so many of the teen-age girls, boys and young children who are attacked struggle with a sense of isolation and doubts about their self-worth in the aftermath, they - like Crosby - don't tell anyone what happened to them until long afterwards. If anything the real numbers are likely much higher.

As Carpenter speaks, Crosby nods her head in agreement, sadness etched on her face.

Hale's bill still has a chance on the Senate side.

Maybe the state's senators will do what the members of the Indiana House of Representatives couldn't or wouldn't do - focus their attention on figuring out why between one in five and one in six Hoosier girls doesn't make it through high school without being raped or sexually assaulted.

Maybe on the Senate side they will take the time to find ways to protect our daughters, our sisters, our neighbors and our friends from having their bodies violated and their lives damaged.


You see, it's a question of priorities.

John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.


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