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Indiana lawmakers want to extend statute of limitations on rape, child exploitation

Indiana lawmakers want to extend statute of limitations on rape, child exploitation crimes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — One in three women and one in four men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

On Tuesday, two Indiana lawmakers introduced a bill that would extend the statute of limitations on crimes of rape and child exploitation.

Joy Ryder’s youth pastor raped her in 1978.

“You just go off somewhere in your mind and wait until it’s over,” Ryder said Tuesday.

She was just 15 years old at the time.

“We didn’t talk about this kind of thing back then,” Ryder explained. “Especially growing up in the church, you didn’t talk about stuff like this.”

Tuesday, she and state lawmakers raised their voices in support of Senate Bill 109, which would extend the statute of limitations on rape crimes and child exploitation.

Right now, the law says charges for most sex crimes against children have to be filed by the time the victim turns 31.

The new bill would make exceptions for three reasons: “the discovery of DNA, with a confession, or with the discovery of some type of recording that prosecutors can use to file a case,” State Sen. Michael Crider, a Republican from Greenfield, explained Tuesday.

“The initiative behind this bill is that we don’t want it to ever be too late for victims to get justice,” said State Sen. Erin Houchin, a Republican from Salem.

The bill got a committee hearing Tuesday morning.

“We are so excited that this bill is getting hearing, but we do stand in partnership with the people up here to say it’s not exactly where we needed to be yet,” Tracey Horth Krueger, the executive director of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking, explained Tuesday.

“It’s important that law enforcement and prosecutors have more time and have the ability to be able to move forward on cases when there is enough evidence,” Camille Cooper, the vice president of Public Policy for RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Back in 2015, Sen. Michael Crider’s bill, “Jenny’s Law” became law. It provides the same exemptions for rape but focuses on adults.

This bill expands that law. Ryder feels like this current bill might bring some hope to survivors.

“I think every victim needs the hope of justice in their life,” Ryder explained.

The bill passed out of committee this morning. It now heads to the Senate floor for a second reading. Crider tells News 8 that could happen as soon as Thursday.

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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