ISU and CARe continue to care about rape and sexual assault of Indiana's youth

June 24 2008

TERRE HAUTE - Jan Ratledge didn't know what to do so she found answers and became a volunteer to help others.

A student in her high school family and consumer sciences class told her about being sexually, emotionally and verbally abused.

"She confided in me and I felt so helpless," Ratledge, a family and consumer sciences teacher at South Dearborn High School in Aurora, recalled. "I didn't know what to do or where to turn. It was for her and others like her that I became passionate about being informed and sharing that information with others."

Ratledge CARes.

Eleven years ago, Indiana State University and Purdue University received money from the Indiana State Department of Health, Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant Crime Bill Amendment to develop a program called Communities Against Rape (CARe) to reduce the incidence of rape and sexual assault on Indiana women ages 12 and older.

"The state approved health book has one paragraph on rape," said Frederica Kramer, chair of family and consumer sciences at ISU. "We've got to quit sweeping this under the rug if we want anything to happen."

Indiana State provides curriculum and organizes the training of middle school, junior high and high school teachers, counselors, nurses, administrators and coaches who in turn take those lessons back to classrooms.

ISU staff along with junior high, middle school and high school teachers developed the more than 200-page CARe curriculum module, which allows teachers to pick and choose lessons and adapt them to their classrooms. Lessons include topics such as creating positive relationships; historical, social and legal implications of rape; myths about rape; and the interrelationship between rape, individuals and society.

"We also give them pre- and post-tests to administer to their students," said Meredith Baldwin, ISU administrative program specialist with the CARe Initiative. "Then they send those back to me for analysis. We're trying to improve students' knowledge and attitudes about rape and sexual assault. Hopefully, that will, in turn, change some of their behaviors."

Ratledge works as one of three teacher presenters who train teachers and school personnel at the CARe workshops.

"I firmly believe that this project is necessary because rape is still such a huge problem and so many young teens don't realize that they're a victim or a perpetrator because sex is so rampant among them," she said.

Timothy Fitzgerald, a health and physical education teacher at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis and Mike Birdsall a history teacher and basketball coach at National Trail High School in New Paris, Ohio, also work as CARe teacher presenters. Fitzgerald said part of their mission is to change attitudes of men and women.

"Our society helps to shape an attitude that men are privileged, that men have certain rights and some of these rights involve how they treat women," he said. "Some men believe that when a woman becomes indebted to a man then it's OK for him to force sex on her. The same idea holds true if the woman dresses a certain way or has a reputation. Believe it or not, there are many women that buy into some of the messages that our society sends concerning women as sex objects."

In addition to speaking about rape, the curriculum also includes sex in the media, sexual harassment, stalking and date rape drugs.

"Most rapes are committed by people you know," Baldwin said. "So acquaintance rape is common, whether it's an actual date or not. It's not usually someone who jumps out from behind a bush. It is usually someone that you do know, whether it be family, friend or an acquaintance."

Although statistics show that the number of rapes in Indiana has declined during the past 16 years, Baldwin said one in four women will be raped in their lifetime. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 1990 there were 2,103 reports of rape, while in 2006 - the latest statistics available - there were 1,835 reported rapes. However, these reported numbers are misleading, Kramer noted, because only 16 to 20 percent of rapes are reported and of those only about 10 percent are prosecuted.

"There are a lot of reasons for the sleight decline, but programs such as CARe have had an impact we are sure," Baldwin said.

"I find that high schoolers, for the most part, know more about the facts of sexual assault," Ratledge said. "I think we're making progress, but I still find that some people believe the victim was asking for it."

During the past 11 years, ISU has conducted more than 50 workshops across the state of Indiana with more than 2,500 teachers. Those participants have reached more than 50,000 students with the CARe message. The CARe message also has reached internationally with presentations in Moscow and Montreal.

"The pretest - post test analysis showed that when teachers used the curriculum, attitudes and knowledge about rape improved at all ages," Kramer said.

Yet, those with CARe said there is still more work to be done.

"I think one of the lines we use in opening our workshops is so profound. 'You don't change behavior until you change attitudes; the key to changing attitudes is education'," said Ratledge. "That's where the work of our component of CARe is so necessary."

"Until our message becomes clear to everyone it's going to be an ongoing battle," Fitzgerald said.

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Contact: Frederica Kramer, professor and chair, department of family and consumer sciences, Indiana State University, 812 237-3297 or fkramer@isugw.indstate.edu  

Contact: Meredith Baldwin, Indiana State University, administrative program specialist CARe Initiative, at 812-237-3490 or at mbaldwin2@isugw.indstate.edu  

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or at jennifer.sicking@indstate.edu  

Photo: http://ISUphoto.smugmug.com/photos/315511053_hWRge-D.jpg  

Cutline: Frederica Kramer, professor and chair of the department of family and consumer sciences at Indiana State University, presented information about CARe during the 2008 Indiana Rural Health Conference in French Lick on June 17.

Photo: http://ISUphoto.smugmug.com/photos/315513898_HN5A2-D.jpg  

Cutline: Frederica Kramer, professor and chair of the department of family and consumer sciences at Indiana State University, and Meredith Baldwin, administrative program specialist CARe Initiative at Indiana State University, presented information about CARe during the 2008 Indiana Rural Health Conference in French Lick on June 17.

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Story Highlights

Eleven years ago, Indiana State University and Purdue University received money from the Indiana State Department of Health, Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant Crime Bill Amendment to develop a program called Communities Against Rape (CARe) to reduce the incidence of rape and sexual assault on Indiana women ages 12 and older.

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