Indiana One of the Worst States In the Country to Be A Woman

by Ryan Sanford Smith

Sobering reports about a recent study out of Indiana University are starting to populate the Hoosier news media and, rightfully so, the reaction so far seems to consist of  horror and curiosity.

Specifically, the survey–conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–found that of high-school age girls surveyed, 17.3% reported that they had been violated forcefully, compared to the national average of 10.5%. Considering estimates that as high as half of all rape cases are never reported and one might safely assume that on average high-school age girls would have an even higher rate, these already alarming results become staggering.

This follows a report last August from Indiana Public Media revealing that Indiana now also ranks second in the country (high ranking = bad) in rates of teen dating abuse. The article goes on to say that “the center saw about 100 more calls per month than it did last year; shelter stays have increased by an average of five days”.

While such connections are complex and shouldn’t be considered in reductive terms, it seems pertinent to note that accounting for a slight variance depending upon which rankings one cites, Indiana ranks nearly dead last in the nation in terms of women’s rights in general–approximately 44th.

Looking at Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington, the male-to-female ratio for undergraduates as of the Spring 2012 semester sits at an even 50%, while the national student body has hovered at 57% female for a few years now. Indiana currently has no female representation in Congress, has never elected a female senator nor a female governor. Indiana is one of only three states that is not required to report sexually violent crimes to the FBI. Let us all also collectively facepalm at state Rep. Bob Morris’s now infamous ranting letter to fellow Republicans in which he comprehensively demonized the Girl Scouts–linking them to Planned Parenthood without any basis for doing so and decrying the Girl Scouts for ‘sexualizing’ young girls.

It boggles to mind to know that such attitudes exist, no matter how fringe they might be, in regards to one of the painfully few frameworks available to young girls that offer them concepts of independence, strength, and confidence. Indiana’s track record on how it helps to cultivate these qualities seems increasingly stark. When young girls in our state look towards the positions of power in general, they will see so few women to whom they might be inspired by or look to as role models. When they look closer to home, at the positions of power at the state level, it seems they are likely to see literally no-one.

Between July of 2010 and June of 2011, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that approximately 6,200 female victims of domestic violence had been served at emergency shelters, with another approximately 5,000 being turned away; the same report cites nearly 66,000 crisis hotline calls.

This all returns to the fact that Indiana is one of the least friendly states in what appears to be literally every conceivable category when it comes to women, specifically young girls. To say that these new statistics are a call to action almost feels likes an insult. If you’re a woman in your formative years, Indiana is only one slot away in two of the most telling statistical categories from being the worst state in the country for you to be growing up. Appalling doesn’t even begin to describe it.