A national analysis of sexual violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 15% 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.

Nine years later, The Herald-Tribune of Batesville reported the percentage of Hoosier girls who have been raped was even higher.

“In a survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana is No. 1 in the United States for the most rapes involving teen girls,” Catherine Dwyer, the rape crisis support and advocacy series program manager at Lawrenceburg’s Community Mental Health Center, announced at an April 2018 Take Back the Night event.

The percentage of Hoosier girls in grades 9-12 who reported being forced into sexual intercourse was 17.3%, Dwyer told the Lawrenceburg crowd.

The national average is 10.5%.

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.

None of these steps will come without cost, but surely our children are worth the expense.

A CNHI News Indiana report we published said 31.7% of Hoosier high-schoolers said they were sexually active in a 2015 statewide survey. Yet in Indiana, sex education isn’t required in schools.

The CDC says attackers in most cases are not strangers hiding in the bushes. Among female rape victims in 2012, perpetrators were reported to be intimate partners (51.1%), family members (12.5%), acquaintances (40.8%) and strangers (13.8%).

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.

Sexual assault isn’t an easy subject to discuss. Most of us just aren’t comfortable bringing it up.

But this statistic should be enough to spur all of us to action and move the Legislature to require sex education in schools: According to the CDC report, nearly 1 in 6 Hoosier girls in high school reported being raped.

That’s a number we simply can’t tolerate.

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