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Jerry Davich: Documentary says Indiana’s second-worst state for teenage rape

Kelly Vates New Hope Women's Outreach Highlsupport/mentoring service for adult survivors childhood sexual abuse. | Post-Tribune

Kelly Vates, New Hope Women's Outreach, Highland, a support/mentoring service for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. | Post-Tribune

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Updated: April 14, 2013 6:34AM



While driving across the region last week, I had to pull my car over while listening to startling statistics from a radio show documentary.

“Shadows of Innocence: Sexual Assault Among Indiana’s Youth,” created through Indiana Public Media, grabbed my attention with compelling personal stories from sex abuse survivors and these eye-opening statistics:

Nearly 18 percent of Indiana girls are raped before they graduate high school.

Indiana is second worst in the country in regard to sex assaults of teenage girls.

One in five Hoosier women has been raped at some point in her life.

What?, I thought while listening to the documentary on Lakeshore Public Radio. Such stats, according to federal figures, only confirm our state’s backward-bumpkin stereotype to the rest of the country.

After I wrote down those numbers, I resumed driving and heard the familiar voice of a sexual abuse survivor featured in the documentary. Her name is Kelly Vates, director of the Fair Haven Center for Women in Highland, who was recommended for the documentary by the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Later that day, I invited Vates to chat with me on my Casual Fridays radio show to answer a few questions. For instance, does simply saying “no” (even repeatedly) really work when dealing with sex-starved men or horny teenage boys?

“Indiana state law states that a woman in the middle of a sexual act can first give consent, but if she changes her mind and begins to say no, then it’s called rape,” Vates said. “No means no. Period.”

The vast majority, more than 80 percent, of sexual abuse attacks against teenage girls (and women) are perpetrated by someone they know, Vates noted.

The well-known “stranger danger” violence prevention campaign may be more familiar to kids. But we need to keep reminding girls of the more realistic threat — boys and men in their daily orbit.

On Monday night, I spoke to the Indiana Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs at The Patio Restaurant in Merrillville. During my presentation to the all-women audience, I noted this documentary and its dire statistics.

One of the women asked rhetorically why all the prevention, education and awareness efforts are typically aimed at girls and women, not boys and men. She nailed it, of course.

Vates, in my radio interview, noted that many of today’s stereotypical pop culture images of “manhood” focus too much on anger, violence and dominance.

“These images help teach men how to be men, and wrongly so,” Vates said.

Another obvious yet million-dollar question: Why is Indiana second worst in the country for sexual assaults of teenage girls? (Wyoming ranks first.)

Vates didn’t have an answer, and I doubt anyone does.

“We need funding for primary prevention efforts, not only to raise awareness but to prevent sexual violence by changing beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in our society,” Vates told me.

In the meantime, I’m convinced we need to continue a dialogue about this issue even though we’d rather not for the typical reasons: Shame, stigma, pain, hurt and, of course, fear.

As one man said in the documentary, “We’ve got to talk about this issue until everyone is so uncomfortable talking about it, we just don’t let it happen anymore.”

To watch the documentary, visit http://video.indianapublicmedia.org/video/2339469646/. To hear my radio show interview with Vates, visit http://jerrydavich.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/shadows-of-innocence/.

On a lighter note ...

Attention, ladies: What is your collective fascination with shoes — heels, flats, boots, pumps, stilettos, whatever? Why such an attraction to buying them, hoarding them and rockin’ them?

A female friend offered a few behind-the-scenes explanations to this naïve, clueless columnist. See if you agree.

First, it’s possibly because a woman’s shoe size doesn’t typically grow along with her dress size. Second, because shoes come in “twos” (double the pleasure). And third, because shoes can be the “exclamation point” to any outfit, she says.

I asked this question on my social media sites and I received dozens of responses from women. Everything from “They make me feel sexy” to “shoes equal art.”

“I have over 100 pairs of shoes and continue to keep buying them,” said Sue Nuzzo. “Heels for special occasions, flats for the casual style, and gym shoes, flip flops for everyday wear!”

“Shoes are the best way to make an outfit,” said Denise K. “The heels make your legs look amazing and the flats look great without pain. It’s great for a simple change to make you feel great about yourself.”

Donette H. said, “Heels make you look thinner if you have some extra pounds on you. The right shoe makes you feel sexy and they show off your beautiful legs.”

Tina R. added, “It doesn’t matter your size, or even your age. You can find fantastic, sexy, flattering shoes in every price bracket. Plus, shoes really are a sensible purchase. They protect your feet.”

Andrea B. confided she owns 142 pairs of shoes, saying, “It’s a woman thing.”

Amy T. offered a dual-meaning rationale: “Because some of them actually put us on a pedestal, of sorts.”

So ladies, what is your attraction to them?

Good morning, Midge

I get a lot of calls, emails and social media messages for various requests, but this is one I simply couldn’t ignore.

“Hello Mr. Davich, my name is Angelica Niaves and I am a home health caregiver,” the Facebook message stated. “I take care of a woman named Marjorie (Midge) Gerometta. She is 91 years old.”

“I was wondering if you ever did outings. Midge has followed your columns for as long as she can remember and she would love to meet you. I would love nothing more than for her to be able to meet you. She lives at the Pines Village retirement facility (in Valpo). Hope to hear back from you.”

On Monday, I visited Midge while she ate lunch in the facility’s dining room and she told me something I want to share with you.

“At my age, I’m just happy to still be in this world,” she told me softly.

Words of wisdom for all of us, at any age, I say.

Find more of Jerry’s writings on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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