December 16, 2021

A conversation with Beth White, incoming president and CEO of Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking

Beth White

Beth White

A long-time local public servant will lead the way in tackling a serious problem in the state -- sexual assault and human trafficking, and children are most at risk. WFYI’s Taylor Bennett sat down with Beth White, recently appointed president and CEO of Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking to confront the issue. 

WFYI Morning Edition newscaster and reporter Taylor Bennett - Sexual assault, human trafficking. We still hear about it, unfortunately. What are some of the things that you are going to take in with this new role in addressing that, and not only addressing that but making sure that we don't have victims anymore?

President and CEO of Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking, Beth White - Absolutely true. Some very sobering statistics, one in five women in the state of Indiana will experience sexual assault in her lifetime. One in four children, girls in Indiana will be the victims of sexual assault before they turn 18. We are fourth in the country in high school girls who report rape, fourth, and that's sixth for boys.

So, lest we think this is merely a question of girls as victims and males as perpetrators, it is not that simple. Every child in the state of Indiana is at risk. And it is unacceptable. What we know is this is 100 percent preventable. And the ICAHT organization has some mechanisms and some techniques. First of all, we engage on the issue, it is really important to talk about this issue. What we know is that silence empowers perpetrators. And what we also know someone very famous, not me said what has to happen for evil to flourish, while good people just to do nothing. And we do know there are lots of good people in Indiana who are doing this work. We need to engage more people, more organizations, bring more resources, and bring more attention.

What we also know is that big-time sports is a platform for human trafficking. We know that's true -- a big deal.

Bennett - That's shocking because I think when you think of human trafficking, that doesn't happen here in Indiana. You think it happens far away? But it's not when you mentioned those statistics earlier, too. I mean, the fact that those things are happening in Indiana is up there. It's alarming.

White - It is alarming, and it's frightening.

Bennett - Why is that?

White - Well, I can't explain why I. I don't know the answer. And I, if I did, I suppose I'd be really more impactful toward the solution. What I do know is what we need to do. And I do think we have to create a culture where people are safe.

And so thinking about sports, not just the human trafficking element of big-time sports, I love that we're a sports town, we host these events, I think it's terrific. But, we want everybody to be safe. We want the players on the field to be safe. We want the visitors and their coaches and everybody else to be safe. We want everybody to be safe when those events are here and when we're focused on hosting them.

The other thing that I know is true is that every place where young people are mentored or taught by adults, there's risk. It's choir, it's marching band, it's theater. It's FFA, it's the Junior Achievement, it's every place. It's scouting. Where young people are gathered and that adults are engaging, and in an atmosphere where young people want to trust and sadly, sometimes that trust is very misplaced. We know that young people who are participating in activities, we know that they're at risk, and we've got to do what we can to protect them.

It's unacceptable and what I do think -- to answer your question about maybe why -- we tend to have an attitude in Indiana that this is inevitable, and that's wrong. It is not inevitable. It is 100 percent preventable. And ICAHT, the organization I will be running in January, is about the business of preventing it, talking about it, and making it on on everyone's radar so that we can stop it.

Bennett - Good luck with everything.

White - Thanks very much.

Contact WFYI Morning Edition newscaster and reporter Taylor Bennett at Follow on Twitter: @TaylorB2213.

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