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January 10, 2013

Group lobbies Senate to enhance child protection laws

— The trauma that a Crawfordsville family endured last March when a 16-year-old boy went missing for four days has caught the attention of the Indiana Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.

The boy, now 17, willingly left his home to go with a middle-aged mental health therapist to Terre Haute, where the boy and therapist are alleged to have engaged in sexual intercourse multiple times during a four-day period.

While the boy’s parents, police, and prosecutors in both Montgomery and Vigo counties agreed that the therapist should be punished for a suspected breach of trust with the boy, no criminal charges could be successfully applied to the circumstances because of the language in Indiana’s child seduction statute.

That “loophole” took the teenager’s family — along with Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt — to the Indiana Statehouse where they advocated a change in the law to apply to all persons of trust who have sex with 16- and 17-year-old children.

“We were appalled by the facts of the case,” Modesitt said to the committee, noting that the parents had done the right thing in seeking out a counselor for their foster son because of his emotional issues stemming from prior neglect by his biological parents.

But after realizing that child molestation could not be charged because the boy was older than age 14, and that sexual misconduct with a minor did not apply because the boy was not age 14 or 15, the prosecution team was surprised to see that the child solicitation statute applies only to teachers, childcare workers, and military recruiters who become sexually involved with teens ages 16 and 17. The law does not cover therapists, mental health counselors, psychiatrists, or psychologists.

“We all looked at each other and said, ‘That just doesn’t seem right,’” Modesitt told the Senate committee.

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