- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. April 13, 2016

Belief the greatest thing we can do for victims.

Sexual assault is one of the most horrifying experiences a person can endure. It is a violation of your entire being. Physical, mental and emotional damage is inescapable.

And that damage is often compounded by negative or simply misguided reactions from people victims thought they could trust enough to disclose their trauma.

How much of this additional damage could we prevent if we simply learned the proper way to respond when someone says they’ve been sexually assaulted?

Anderson University student Hannah Welch has taken a brave step in showing us the right path.

Welch recently launched a local campaign for a national program by End Violence Against Women International. Start by Believing aims to change how people think and react to sexual violence. Welch’s ask of AU students was simple: Write your name on a commitment card and have your picture taken with it. Share the photo on Facebook with the hashtag #startbybelieving. She also handed out information on sexual assault and how to report it.

Welch thought it was important to start the program at AU, and she’s right.

The university’s religious affiliations do not preclude its students from being the victim or perpetrator of sexual assault. It can happen on any campus, dorm or off-campus housing anywhere. And it happens to both men and women.

Too many are quick to blame the victim, to question what really happened, to ask whether “mitigating” factors, such as revealing clothing, alcohol or drugs, were involved.

These are the wrong questions, the wrong responses. Victims are in need of advocates, not inquisitors.

Being an advocate isn’t easy but it is simple.

Believe. Offer to help, or get them to someone who can.

Hannah and those who took the Start by Believing pledge are a good start. But it will take all of us to change the world’s response to sexual violence.

For those who are victimized, giving them someone they can share with, someone who will believe them could be a lifesaver.


South Bend Tribune. April 14, 2016

VA system reform requires persistence.

One year ago, the Veterans Affairs clinic in South Bend had some of the longest wait times in the country for veterans seeking health care appointments.

But the most recent summary of wait lists shows those times have improved significantly. According to data provided by the VA, which was last updated March 15, the South Bend clinic has now scheduled 99.56 percent of its appointments for under 30 days, with the average wait time being a little over two days.

Wait times are still an issue nationally. A story published by USA Today one week ago reported supervisors instructed schedulers to falsify patient wait times at VA medical facilities in at least seven states. According to the report, the manipulation gave the false impression that facilities in those states were meeting VA performance measures for shorter wait times.

Indiana was not one of the seven states listed in the report.

As recently as October, the Government Accountability Office said the system was still prone to scheduler error and produces unreliable data.

House subcommittees are meeting this week to talk about ways of modernizing the scheduling process. In addition, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is scheduled to meet next week to discuss wait times at the VA. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a member of the VA committee and Indiana’s 2nd District representative, is expected to introduce legislation requiring each facility director within the VA system to certify compliance with scheduling practices. The legislation also would require an annual report to Congress listing the facilities that have not certified compliance and why they haven’t.

Fixing the problems in the VA system should be a priority. Though it seems things are improving locally, it is an issue that our local representatives in Congress must stay on top of to ensure our veterans are getting the health care they deserve in a timely manner.


The (Munster) Times. April 17, 2016

State should eliminate straight-party voting feature.

Voting should be serious business - an American right, duty and privilege approached in a thoughtful manner, whatever our political leanings.

That’s why we support a new state law making it a bit harder for general election voters to simply hit one partisan button in the voting booths, casting votes exclusively for candidates of one political party.

The new law requires voters to take additional steps of selecting individual candidates in all at-large races, according to bill sponsor, Rep. David Ober, R-Albion.

We’re all for this change in law, but it doesn’t go far enough.

Our society is evolving. Younger generations of voters - our future leaders - show trends of dividing their votes between parties, selecting candidates on merit rather than party.

This trend gives us hope.

Straight-party voting is a dinosaur of voting concepts that does far more to preserve political machines than ensure the best possible candidates are elected to serve.

It should be pushed into extinction by our Legislature, but that will take courage that all too often seems in short supply.

Eliminating straight-party voting features in Indiana ballot booths wouldn’t impede people’s ability to cast ballots as they choose.

It would simply encourage them to consider all candidates of each race - hopefully evaluating merit rather than party affiliation.

Change is coming in the voting tendencies of future generations. It’s time to scrap this outmoded form of balloting and make way for a more thoughtful approach to our elections process.

Perhaps such a change could prompt our elected leaders to make a greater effort in basing their candidacies on real policies rather than contrived party entitlement.


(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. April 17, 2016

Education answer for overflowing Vigo County jail.

The people of Vigo County, and the public officials they’ve elected to represent them, face a festering problem: an over-burdened jail.

That problem has a source - the unabated scourge of methamphetamine abuse and drug addiction, and untreated mental illnesses. The county is struggling to cope with the symptoms. The jail was built in 1981, when inmate populations were smaller. The facility was expanded in 2001, once meth abuse grew into an epidemic. Since then, two companion lawsuits have forced Vigo County to limit its jail occupancy to 268 inmates. When the number of offenders overflows that maximum, they must be transported and housed in neighboring counties at a cost of more than $1 million annually, Sheriff Greg Ewing has stated. The county expanded its public defender program in February to handle the mushrooming caseload.

The community needs a new jail. Its estimated pricetag stands at $54.3 million, according to an architectural proposal discussed at a forum Monday at Terre Haute South High School.

A modern structure would provide some treatment tools to address the rising jail population’s source, which the current jail lacks, such as space for programs to help addicted and mentally ill inmates.

Still, the root causes must not fall from the community’s radar screen. The goal cannot only be a better and larger facility to contain more inmates. At a panel discussion last week, a Vigo County Council candidate said he accepts that a new jail is needed and shares the angst over a possible local option income tax to pay for it, but then added, “I want to have (fewer) criminals.” Bingo.

A detour toward less-crowded jails would be to house more nonviolent felons, whose crimes involved drug use, inside approved, nonprofit facilities and homes. Such programs could be worthwhile, but would require sustained funding and must reach troubled people after they run afoul of the law.

The most direct vaccine to treat Vigo County’s growing number of criminals is expanded education. The long-run solution injects learning into the lives of poverty stricken kids at earlier ages. While necessary discussions continue on the need, scope and cost of a new jail, equal energy should be exerted by Wabash Valley state legislators to push the Indiana Statehouse leadership in Indianapolis to lower the mandatory school age from 7 years to 5, making kindergarten truly universal for Hoosier kids, and provide state-funded prekindergarten programs for, at least, low-income 3- and 4-year-olds. Kids exposed to early childhood education are less likely to commit crimes, be chronically jobless or be dependent on government assistance. Twenty-eight percent of local kids live in poverty, nearly the highest rate in Indiana.

Early schooling is not cheap, but it is less costly than new jails.

Plenty of folks take a hard-line view of criminals and housing them, and understandably bristle at the thought of their taxes funding a $54-million jail. “Prisons are supposed to be unpleasant,” many would say. Vigo Superior Court Judge Michael Rader agrees inmates should not be “coddled,” but said at a forum last week that many cases he handles are “heartbreaking,” with treatment needed, not punishment. Indiana Department of Correction statistics back up that statement - 80 percent of people incarcerated need addiction help, and 16 percent have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Preschool improves lives more effectively than prison. Vigo County needs the resources to adjust to that reality.

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