News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 28, 2014

Under-reporting of sexual assault just tip of iceberg

CDC report in 2008 shows 1 in 6 Hoosier girls victimized before graduating from high school

TERRE HAUTE — Out of the Shadows

Another in a continuing series of stories examining sexual assault and rape in Indiana

As a violent crimes investigator with the Terre Haute Police Department, Starla Neidigh is far more concerned about “getting my victims taken care of” than she is about crime statistics.

But she has no doubt the crime of rape is underreported. “We’re only touching the tip of the iceberg, I think,” she said recently.

Many rape victims don’t want to report because they’re concerned about the stigma.

“They think everyone will blame it on them,” she said of criticisms that can involve visiting a certain place, or being with a certain person, or drinking.  

“They see television and what rape victims go through on TV. They think it’s all going to be that way, that they’ll be the bad person and their reputation is going to be run through the coals,” she said. “I can’t sit here and say it won’t … because a lot of times you have to get on the [witness] stand and do this kind of stuff.”

Shawn Keen, assistant chief of detectives for THPD, agrees. “I think a great number of cases are not reported.”

Clark Cottom, chief deputy with the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, sees the same thing at the county level.

He believes under-reporting occurs for a variety of reasons.

“Sometimes victims are embarrassed,” Cottom said. “In some instances, the perpetrator is related to them, either by blood or relationship.”

A victim might believe the rape was an isolated incident and perhaps won’t happen again, he said. In most cases worked by the sheriff’s department, the victim and perpetrator know each other, he said.

“We would just encourage people to report these kinds of crimes,” Cottom said. “We do have counseling agencies and support groups” for victims.

The reporting and under-reporting of sexual assault in Indiana — particularly as it relates to young women and men — is gaining greater prominence among some state legislators, including State Rep. Christina Hale of Indianapolis.

She and other persistent advocates are determined to bring the issue of sexual assault and rape out of the shadows.

Not only does Hale know of young women sexually assaulted, she was alarmed when she saw a 2008 Centers for Disease Control report found that one in six Indiana girls is raped by the time she finishes high school.

Through Hale’s tenacity — with the backing of such influential legislators as state Sen. Jim Merritt — a major, statewide study will begin soon to better understand the extent of sexual assault and its under-reporting, with a focus on adolescents.


According to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data, Terre Haute reported 29 rapes in 2012, 17 in 2011 and 33 in 2010. Some of those might later have been determined “unfounded.”  

The Vigo Sheriff’s department investigated seven rape reports in 2012, eight in 2013 and two so far in 2014, Cottom stated this past week. In terms of sexual battery, it investigated 14 reports in 2012, 14 in 2013 and none so far this year, he said.

In 2012, the Terre Haute Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Clay, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties, indicated there were 41 rapes and a rate of 25.4 per 100,000 residents. Nationally, there were 84,376 rapes in 2012 and a rate of 26.9 per 100,000 people, according to the Uniform Crime Report.

In Terre Haute, the circumstances in which rape can occur are as varied as the victims. Rape cases might involve a husband and wife, or people who met on the Internet, Neidigh said.

“You can’t really let your guard down, especially if you are just meeting someone,” she said. “Social media has really, really hurt a lot of people. They think if they talk five or six times on the Internet, they know them. Then they meet someplace and everything goes bad.”


Rape victims don’t have to report the crime to police, if they are unsure that is what they want to do.

Under changes to the federal Violence Against Women Act that took effect in 2009, sexual assault victims can seek medical treatment and an exam without mandatory reporting to law enforcement.

Before that change, if a rape victim went to a hospital for treatment after being raped, the hospital was required to report it to authorities, Keen said. That, in turn, might discourage a victim from seeking treatment because she or he didn’t want to pursue it through the criminal justice system.

But not seeking medical treatment or psychological counseling could mean continued physical and mental health problems, Keen said.

In Vigo County, victims can have anonymous rape exams done at both Terre Haute Regional and Union hospitals. Trained nurses collect evidence and make sure the victims’ medical issues are addressed. Regional has a forensic nurse on call 24/7.

The rape kit is labeled with an anonymous number and given to the appropriate local police agency with jurisdiction. In Vigo County, those kits will be kept for five years, which is the statute of limitations on the filing of criminal charges in Indiana.

“We are only required to keep them for 12 months under the law, but we keep them five years” as part of Vigo County’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) protocol, Keen said.

But by having a rape kit done, evidence is preserved for use in pursuing a criminal case in the future, when a victim might feel more ready to give testimony.

As required by state law, the county’s Sexual Assault Response Team and protocol are intended “to ensure the quick response needed to protect the victim and to preserve evidence.”


Whether an individual reports to police or goes to a hospital, the protocol calls for either one to contact the Council on Domestic Abuse (CODA). “We want the victim to have support. The victim advocate understands the system and what all is going on, so she can explain to the victim her choices at that point,” including the anonymous rape kit, said Raeanna Moore, Vigo County deputy prosecutor.

Victims don’t have to talk to a CODA advocate if they choose not to.

Those involved with SART have tried to make the protocol as victim-centered as possible, Moore said. Even the rape kit is not an easy thing, and the process can take several hours, she said.

“They check you from head to toes for any piece of evidence they can find,” Moore said. “It’s a lengthy process. That’s why it helps to have a victim advocate there.”

Victims also could benefit from the FSA Counseling Center’s trauma survivors group, which meets once a week. There is no charge, and child care is provided. If someone has been raped and hasn’t reported it, they can still attend “to help them get through this,” Moore said. The group, which is for women, works with victims of domestic violence, rape and other violent crimes.

Keen believes there are many people who are afraid to report. “They don’t want people to know about it. That was the purpose of the SART process to begin with — first and foremost, that [victims] get medical treatment, even if they choose not to report,” he said.

Keen said in most of the rape cases he has dealt with, the victim knows and can name the suspect. “It’s rare that you would have this random person who didn’t know the victim,” he said. He’s been involved in investigations for 15 years and said he has worked only two cases in which the victim did not know the suspect.

Neidigh urges victims to report immediately and not wait. “If you wait a week or two weeks, most of the evidence is gone. If it happens, report it,” she said. Too often, victims call after they have taken showers and washed or disposed of clothing and bedding. “That is your physical evidence you really need to have to back up your story,” she said.

But even if evidence is gone, she advocates that victims report. “Even if it can’t go anywhere, and there’s not enough evidence to do anything, maybe the person who did this to you does it to someone else, and then there [are] two people against this one guy,” she said.


There are times when what is initially reported as rape turns out not to be the case. Someone might make it up to cover their actions if they have been with someone they’re not supposed to be with, Neidigh said. “They have to come up with some reason, so they say rape.

“That’s disheartening for a lot of us because we put all of our time and effort into it and then it comes back that it’s not,” she said. Also, the person falsely accused has been interrogated or questioned.

“It upsets you,” Keen said, “because you are trying to investigate a crime, and we know there are real victims who don’t report it.”

It is important for investigators to be open-minded with each new case. “You can’t let it jade you,” Neidigh said, because the next person might be the victim of a violent crime.

And Neidigh is committed to those victims.

“You have to care about people to be in this line of work,” she said. “You’ve got to want to help people because that’s what we’re here for — to help people.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
  • MET072514 invenadamson step.jpg ‘Minds-on camp’

    Sylvia Ann Adamson longed for privacy, so she invented a solution to that problem at “Camp Invention.”

    July 25, 2014 5 Photos

  • Linda Tincher.jpg Riley lion’s roar goes global

    Linda L. Tincher has become the first woman from Indiana elected to serve as an international director for Lions Clubs International. She was chosen earlier this month during the clubs’ 97th international convention in Toronto, Canada.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET072514 SPPRAK glasses.jpg Kindness ‘undercover’

    Hundreds of people gathered at Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium on Friday for a night of baseball, music, the “Green Man” and green shades.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Residents ‘stuff the bus’ with pencils, notebooks, backpacks

    After exiting a Wal-Mart store in Clinton, Roger E. Richardson stopped his shopping cart Friday in front of a large yellow South Vermillion School Corporation bus.

    July 25, 2014

  • Man faces 9 charges in homicide case

    A Solsberry man faces nine criminal charges related to a July 18 homicide and rape in rural Greene County.

    July 25, 2014 1 Story

  • maroon truck.jpg UPDATE: Rockville man dies after head-on collision

    A Rockville man has died from injuries he sustained this afternoon in a two-vehicle, head-on crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • red truck.jpg Head-on crash leaves Rockville man seriously injured

    A Rockville man was air-lifted to an Indianapolis hospital with serious injuries this afternoon following a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 25, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 25, 2014

  • Measles case confirmed in Central Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials have confirmed a case of measles in Central Indiana. The Indiana State Department of Health is working with local health departments and health care providers to identify additional cases of measles, and to prevent further transmission of the disease.

    July 25, 2014

  • Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

    CHICAGO (AP) — Fast food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.

    July 25, 2014

  • 4 doctors arrested after Indiana clinic raids

    CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say four doctors have been arrested on charges of improperly prescribing a drug used to treat painkiller addiction from several Indiana offices.

    July 25, 2014

  • holiday world thunderbird.jpg Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster

    SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana is building a new $22 million roller coaster that it says will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop and four inversions.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indianapolis pulls future support for Amtrak line

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — City officials in Indianapolis have cast the future of an Amtrak passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago into doubt after deciding not to provide any additional money to subsidize that line.

    July 25, 2014

  • Pence leading annual governor’s motorcycle ride

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence is leading the annual governor’s motorcycle ride from the Statehouse through southern Indiana.

    July 25, 2014

  • State asks judge to delay right-to-work ruling

    CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana attorney general’s office has asked a judge to put on hold his order striking down the state’s right-to-work law.

    July 25, 2014

  • MET 072414 HOESS 01KOR.jpg Voices from Auschwitz: Ties that bind

    A message that has spread like wildfire across Europe can easily translate to America.

    July 24, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • Minimum wage frozen after 5 years

    Thursday marked the fifth anniversary since the federal minimum wage was increased, a wage U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez contends should again be raised.

    July 24, 2014

  • MET072414 CANDLES shake.jpg ISU, CANDLES join to ‘illuminate the world’

    Indiana State University and CANDLES Holocaust Museum are joining forces to educate current and future generations about the Holocaust, genocide and related issues.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • MET072414 JA hadley.jpg 50 years later, still business as usual

    Junior Achievement of the Wabash Valley marked its 50th anniversary hosting a luau Thursday at the Ohio Building in Terre Haute.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Two semis collide; one driver injured

    A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital Thursday after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.

    July 24, 2014

  • Valley talent returns for show tonight

    Local musical collective Lunes Domingo is scheduled to be back at The Verve tonight to perform the last installment of its 2014 series.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police find 2 meth labs in 1 house

    The Clay County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday arrested a Staunton man and a Terre Haute woman on felony charges of manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police say man broke into prison building

    A man living at a Carlisle motel has been arrested for trespassing and criminal mischief after he allegedly kicked in a prison building door.

    July 24, 2014

  • Driver airlifted to Methodist after I-70 crash

    A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital today after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lunes Domingo, Bear Foote Jackson at The Verve July 25

    Local musical collective Lunes Domingo will be back at The Verve on Friday, July 25, to perform the last installment of their 2014 series. Cost is $3.

    July 24, 2014

  • West T Water Works issues boil order

    The West Terre Haute Water Works announced this morning that a boil order is in effect until further notice for the community of West Terre Haute and Sugar Creek Township.

    July 24, 2014

  • Grease fire closes Terre Haute restaurant for short time

    A grease fire closed the Golden Corral for about three hours on Wednesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 24, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 24, 2014

  • Bloomington helping with beer brewery’s project

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — The city of Bloomington is helping a beer brewery with an expansion of its downtown restaurant and bar.

    July 24, 2014

  • Family: Teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks

    PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren’t achieved without taking chances.

    July 24, 2014

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010