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Education Leaders Launch Campaign To Combat Sexual Abuse

Indiana has the second highest rate of sexual assault among teenage girls in the country. Education leaders are beginning to ask how they can prevent it.

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Photo: Bill Shaw

Child sexual abuse educator Karen Duncan speaks to a group of teachers and administrators about how to handle cases of sexual assault.

Indiana’s education leaders are beginning a campaign that aims to address Indiana’s rate of sexual assault among teenage girls, which is the second highest in the country.

On Tuesday, Indiana’s Department of Education held a conference to kick off the Unified Campaign To Combat Sex Abuse.

It’s goal is to give education leaders the tools they need to begin combating the problem of child sexual abuse.

It drew together activists, prosecutors, therapists and communication experts to help schools develop policies aimed at protecting children.

That’s something experts who contributed to WTIU’s documentary last year on teen sexual assault stressed needed to be done.

“We are all kind of taught that these are things that should not be talked about in school for the most part,” says Jonathan Plucker the former director for the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. “I think the data make it pretty clear that that attitude carries a huge price for us.  And it’s that we can all pretty easily pretend that this isn’t going on, but it is.  We just need to get over that.  But I think that that is almost certainly the major, I don’t want to call it provincialism, but just that provincial American attitude of no, no no you are not going to talk to my kid about that stuff.”

Schools aren’t mandated in Indiana to teach sexuality so the state Department of Education  doesn’t keep data on how much time- if any- teachers spend discussing it in their classrooms.

But child sexual abuse educator Karen Duncan, who presented at the summit, says beginning in kindergarten, the classroom is the perfect place to begin talking about sexuality.

“We live in such a highly sexualized society that we adults are so uncomfortable talking about sexuality and sexual development,” Duncan says. “Teaching children about their own human sexual development is not going to cause them a propensity towards other things that parents or other adults may be afraid of. It actually teaches them to respect their bodies, honor their bodies, respect other people. That’s a part of the value building that comes from training and the education of children.”

Then the curriculum advances each year with the student.

Jane Naugle teaches a  6-week program called Safe Dates  to 7th graders during study hall at Scottsburg Middle School.

She started doing it a few years ago after recognizing sexual abuse was a growing problem  her students were facing.

“We teach math all 12 years of school. We teach science all 12 years of school,” says Naugle. “I think we should have personal social curriculum for all 12 years of school as well.”

The sex abuse campaign includes more conferences this fall focused on how to recognize and respond to the abuse of school age children and reporting requirements.

It also includes as an agenda item – child sex abuse prevention curriculum.

Sara Wittmeyer

Sara Wittmeyer is the News Bureau Chief for WFIU and WTIU. Sara has more than a decade of experience as a news reporter and previously served with KBIA at the University of Missouri, WNKU at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY, and at WCPO News in Cincinnati.

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