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Sara Wittmeyer
WFIU/WTIU news bureau chief

Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WFIU/WTIU present documentary and discussion on Indiana's high rate of sexual assault among teens

Note: Indiana has the second-highest rate of rape among high-school-age girls. At 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, the WFIU/WTIU Newsroom will be airing a new documentary, "Shadows of Innocence: Sexual Assault Among Indiana's Youth," followed by a roundtable discussion featuring questions from an audience of Indiana high school students. The Twitter hashtag for discussion about the documentary is #INshadows.

Feb. 27, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- WFIU/WTIU Newsroom will air a documentary, "Shadows of Innocence: Sexual Assault Among Indiana's Youth," that looks at the high rate of sexual assault in Indiana and efforts to address it. The documentary, airing at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, will be followed by a live roundtable session featuring questions from an audience of Indiana high school students.

According to recent studies, Indiana has the second-highest rate of rape among high-school-aged girls -- more than 17 percent of Indiana's high school girls experience sexual assault before they graduate.

"Initially I was shocked by the statistics and wanted to dig deeper to find out why Indiana ranked so poorly," said Sara Wittmeyer, WFIU/WTIU news bureau chief and "Shadows of Innocence" executive producer. "As a public media newsroom, it's our mission to get behind the headlines and add context. We wanted to put a face on the statistics and show our audience that sexual assault is an epidemic among our youth and that it doesn't just happen in dark alleys or to people of a certain demographic group; it affects everyone."

"Shadows of Innocence" features sexual assault survivors' stories, as well as statewide violence prevention experts, psychologists and educators. They all are working to lower Indiana's rate of sexual assault, but not everyone feels as though the state is doing everything it can. The documentary also looks at states that are doing better, such as Minnesota, to learn what they are doing differently.

"Arguably Indiana is one of the worst states in the entire country in terms of sexual assault, sexual violence," Jonathan Plucker, former director of Indiana University Bloomington's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, says in the documentary. "It is especially pronounced at the high school and college levels, but the data make it clear that throughout an Indiana woman's life this is a serious risk."

Researchers with CEEP and the Kinsey Institute collaborated on a 2012 report that examined sexual assault in Indiana.

"I think the truth is that whatever we have all been doing is probably not quite enough and maybe not quite right," Julia Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute, says in the documentary. "So we have to come back to the table and see what more we can do to make sure these figures decrease over time, and I think we have a good chance of doing that, but we have to focus on it. It's not going to get better by itself."

Producer Wes Akers says working on the documentary was emotional at times.

"Listening to stories of abuse and sexual assault is never easy," he said. "But we never doubted what we were doing, especially after seeing how many women stepped forward to talk to us -- on camera -- about their experiences. They saw the value in it, and that really motivated us to keep taking the documentary further."

Wittmeyer can be reached at 812-856-1584 or