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Published: Wednesday, 5/28/2014

Sylvania police urge caution with spike in sexual assault cases

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Schnoor Schnoor
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There‘s been a spike in rape and sexual assault cases in Sylvania this year, but city police say the public should not be alarmed.

The seven cases so far this year are more than double the number from this point last year, but most have been allegedly committed  by suspects known to police.

“Residents should not be alarmed. None of the cases have unknown suspects,” Capt. Rick Schnoor said about the police having information on the alleged perpetrators.

One rape was reported by a patient at ProMedica Flower Hospital in April who said she was assaulted by another hospital patient. Four of the cases this year involve juveniles and children under age 4 reporting a rape or being inappropriately touched. In the two other cases, one took place in a home where the female and male knew each other and the other was a mother of juvenile who suspected her daughter was raped two years prior when the girl was 14.

“We see more of these than anything unfortunately,” Captain Schnoor said of cases involving minors who are victims.

Sylvania Township Police Chief Robert Boehme said that, in township cases, the reporting person usually knows the alleged suspect. The township so far this year has had four reported sexual assaults.

Sylvania police departments have an experienced female detective assigned to handle the sensitive cases. When she is not available, experienced male detectives step in.

Sexual assault victims can be comfortable with male police officers, but it depends on the person, said Angela Daigneault, who is an expert on sexual assault who works at the University of Toledo Counseling Center and is not familiar personally with the Sylvania cases.

“I have worked with both who are absolutely not comfortable working with males, and some don’t care,” she said.

Some assault incidents were reported to Sylvania police days, or even years, after the incident took place.

The period of time between an incident and when the victim reports it has no bearing on the facts of what occurred, Ms. Daigneault said.

“A lot of times people don’t report for reasons, like an acquaintance rape,” she said. “If they know the perpetrator, if it is a family member, they may be afraid or wonder if their family will believe them. Also if it is someone they trust and know, they are in shock that someone they know and trusted has done something like this to them.”

Often, a sexual assault nurse examiner at the hospital gathers the initial evidence from the assaulted person. The nurse talks to the patient, retrieves their medical history, examines them head-to-toe, and takes pictures. Time is critical in gathering evidence from a person’s body. For an adult it is 96 hours, and 72 hours for a child below 12. When swabbing the victim for bodily fluids, she said that, because of the difference in the body at certain ages, a four year old may not have evidence staying on them as long as a 12 year old.

Kristan Napier, coordinator of ProMedica Regional Metro Forensic Program, said it employs 12 such nurses, all of which are female. Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children’s Hospital. If a victim arrives at Flower Hospital, an emergency physician medically clears them or ensures they are not seriously injured and the patient is transferred to the appropriate hospital to see the nurse.

In instances of crimes against children, police investigate the case with Lucas County Child Services Bureau, which has a staff member interview and act as an advocate for the child.

Captain Schnoor of Sylvania police said police find in many rape and sexual cases no offense took place. Chief Boehme of the township said, “Most of the time, a number of these reports can’t be substantiated. The victim makes the initial report but then when it comes down to the investigation, the victim did not report that anything took place” or does not follow up with investigators.

Ms. Daigneault said a lot of times victims do not go through the full process of reporting a rape because they are scared for their safety and because many rape cases do not always lead to prosecution because they are difficult to prove. She said that, if a perpetrator is prosecuted, they are not always found guilty, “so it may not be worth the pain of going through the case.”

Sylvania police said two sexual assault cases were reported in 2013 and three in 2012 and 2011. Township police said there eight such cases reported May through December, 2012 and 12 in 2013.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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