- By Josh Sweigart Staff Writer
Editors’s note: A months-long I-Team investigation of Ohio’s Crime Victim Compensation Program found the amount of assistance paid through the program has been steadily declining for a decade. Last year the program denied more people than it approved, and now spends almost as much on staff salaries and overhead as it gives in aid. Victims and victims’ advocates say some of the rules are too stringent for a program funded by criminals to help make repair damages done by crimes. Read the full story here.
A 17-year-old who was abducted and allegedly sexually assaulted before being rescued from a motel in Moraine was denied assistance from the Ohio Victims Compensation Fund.
The reason: drugs were found in her system. It didn’t matter that her family said she was fed the drugs by her abductors, who intended to force her into sex trafficking.
“The victim’s program they have in place is not doing what it’s intended to do,” said the girl’s mother, who is being identified only as Angela to protect the identity of her daughter. “It’s not helping the victims. It’s not helping the families.”
FULL REPORT: Claims spike, but fewer victims get compensation
To see what criteria is used to reject applications for victims compensation, the I-Team used used Ohio public records laws to obtain “Reconsideration Reports” filed with the Attorney General’s office when someone appeals a denial of their claim.
The April 2016 case involving Angela’s 17-year-old daughter stood out.
Angela said her daughter has developmental issues that leave her with the maturity and decision-making skills of a 10-year-old. Although her daughter told Angela she was meeting a friend at a gas station, she never met the friend. Instead, a man she didn’t know and his father stopped and told her to get into their car, Angela said.
“Somebody says to do it and she does it because she says she’s too afraid not to do it,” Angela said of her daughter’s mental state.
The men took the girl back to their house, where they gave her alcohol, methamphetamine and cocaine and the younger man allegedly sexually assaulted her, according to Angela. Then they took her to a motel in Moraine where she was forced to have sex with a third man, the mother said.
‘I think she was about to be trafficked’
“I think she was about to be trafficked,” Angela said. “I think she was about to disappear permanently.”
But the girl got in touch with her sister, who found the motel. Angela said the men fled when the sister arrived, and then the girls called police. She was transported to the hospital for a rape kit and that’s when the drugs were found in her system.
“The drugs in her system were because of the crime,” Angela said. “They were forcing that on her.”
Police identified the younger man and issued a warrant for his arrest that was served in Shelby County. He was accused of felony rape by use of intoxicants and corrupting another with drugs, but a grand jury declined to indict him, according to court records.
The girl has since undergone counseling, but is not eligible for compensation from the state because she admitted to using the drugs, according to the letter denying Angela’s request for reconsideration.
“The law states that if a victim was using or in possession of a felony drug on or in their person at the time of the crime giving rise to a claim for compensation, such felonious conduct shall result in the denial of a claim,” the letter says.
Matthew Kanai, chief of the AG’s crime victims service division, said there is an exception to the rule if victims can show they were forced to take drugs or took them involuntarily.
Angela wrote in her reconsideration appeal that her daughter “was given alcohol, cocaine and meth by her abductor to subdue her and keep her compliant. That’s why she had them in her system.”
But the AG’s office responded saying she “voluntarily used cocaine, the use or possession of which is felonious.”
Angela said she gave up at that point, despite lost income from missing work and other hardships. She didn’t know she could get a free attorney through the program.
Advocate: Law should change
Elizabeth Well, legal director of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, expressed shock at the outcome of Angela’s case.
Drugs are often used by the perpetrators of human trafficking to control the women, she said, and holding that against the victim is removing an incentive for them to report the crime.
“My opinion is because (human trafficking) is happening in our state and across the country I would think at some point they would have to take a look at that and change the law,” she said.
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