By Heather Lusk
The number of county-wide sexual child abuse allegations has increased compared to last year, with 75 cases reported so far in 2016 versus 199 total cases investigated in 2015 according to Kassie Frazier, executive director of the Boone County Child Advocacy Center.
Frazier attributed the rise in county population as one of the factors in the increase.
“Our numbers are rising and our population is rising,” she said. “We’re getting so much new growth in Boone County. With more people, more things happen.”
Frazier believes that school programs teaching children that their bodies are their own and that it’s safe to tell an adult about abuse also contribute to the increase.
“Since it’s being talked about so often, children are more willing to come forward if something is happening,” she said.
Zionsville Community Schools has participated in a body safety program for several years and Western Boone Community Schools added the program to its curriculum this year.
Smart Steps: A Body Safety Program for Children delivers four main messages to students: your body belongs to you, you are allowed to say “no” to unwanted touches, tell a trusted adult about any touches, and abuse is never your fault.
“We’re educating and empowering our children in a way that other generations were not empowered,” said Toby Stark, executive director of Chaucie’s Place, which leads the Smart Steps program.
Stark said that through the program they were reporting an average of 10 alleged abuse cases each year based upon feedback from the students.
“This school year we are already at 24 reports,” she said.
“I don’t think necessarily more children are being abused,” Stark said. “With these prevention programs, children are realizing they can tell, and they will be believed and they will get help.”