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Victims speak about teen-dating violence

February 25, 2011 3 comments

Johanna Orozco, of Cleveland, a victim of teenage violence, spoke to a crowd of local counselors, teachers and teens at the YWCA on North Park Avenue in Warren. Orozco’s ex-boyfriend shot her in the face in 2007.

A state law signed last year by then-Gov. Ted Strickland and sponsored by former state Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles mandated that public schools begin to teach students in grades seven-12 about teen-dating violence starting this school year.

Implementation of the law, known as The Tina Croucher Act, hasn’t gone perfectly, said Cheryl Tarantino, executive director of the Warren domestic-violence shelter Someplace Safe.

Because the Legislature didn’t provide any funding to carry it out and because the law didn’t specify what kind of education is required, some schools are doing almost nothing, Tarantino said.

On Thursday, Someplace Safe and the 13 other Northeast Ohio organizations concerned about dating violence brought three of Ohio’s best-known teen-violence experts to the YWCA on North Park Avenue to train local counselors, teachers and teens on the subject.

Johanna Orozco of Cleveland may be the best living example of the consequences of teen-dating violence.

When Orozco, 22, first stepped to the microphone, it was apparent why people listen to her.

Not only is her face disfigured from a shotgun blast she suffered in 2007 when her ex-boyfriend shot her at close range, but she speaks in a dynamic way and relates to teens.

Orozco’s story, which has been told numerous times on national television and in a seven-day series in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was that she was the victim of a tall, dark, handsome, intelligent and violent teen named Juan Ruiz Jr., Orozco’s boyfriend of two years.

Orozco had known Ruiz since the second grade. They started dating in early 2005, when Orozco was a sophomore in high school. Ruiz shot Orozco in March 2007.

The court sentenced Ruiz to 27 years in prison in September 2007 after he pleaded guilty to raping and attempting to kill Orozco. Ruiz was 17 at the time.

But during her talk Thursday, Orozco pointed out that her relationship with Ruiz was anything but violent in the beginning.

Four to five months into the relationship, Ruiz became jealous and started to tell Orozco what she could wear and who she could talk to. He accused her of cheating and began to call her every three to five minutes on the phone.

Her friends and family noticed that she had changed — becoming isolated from them. She lied about the reasons why.

A year into the relationship, Ruiz hit her for the first time, so she broke up with him, only to change her mind a short time later.

The relationship got worse over the following year — slapping, squeezing and hitting her in places where others wouldn’t notice. She continued to lie to friends and family about the source of the injuries because “I loved him. I cared about him,” she said. Eventually, she also feared him.

About a month before Ruiz shot her, she left him, but Ruiz found her and raped her at knifepoint, which she reported to someone at school, which led to juvenile charges being filed against Ruiz.

Ruiz was let out of juvenile custody on house arrest and stalked Orozco for two weeks before shooting her as she sat in her car.

The blast removed half of her lower face. Bone from her leg was used to rebuild her jaw.

The other speakers were Elsa and Jim Croucher of Monroe, near Cincinnati, the parents of Tina Croucher, who was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1992.

Elsa Croucher said her daughter’s boyfriend was a good-looking football player who regularly hit her daughter, leaving bruises.

Tina Croucher lied about how she got the bruises, but eventually her family found out, and Tina stopped seeing him.

“Then he really caused problems,” Elsa said, describing “horrible messages” that he left on voice mails, and times he went to the family’s church and to Elsa’s workplace.

“Four days before Christmas, he shot her in the head and killed himself in her room,” Elsa said.

The Crouchers were instrumental in getting the Legislature to pass The Tina Croucher Act.

 

Published: Fri, February 25, 2011 @ 12:06 a.m.

By: Ed Runyan

WARREN

Vindy.com

Photo by: Robert K Yosay

Take care and STAY SAFE!

Strip Search of a Stark County, Ohio female, Hope Steffey…ILLEGAL!

August 19, 2010 2 comments

October 20, 2006 will be embedded in Hope Steffey’s mind, body and soul for the rest of her life.

Never to minimize Hope Steffey’s illegal experience with officers of the law…..females are being victimized by law enforcement officers every damn day. Unfortunately they are scared, do not have the support, legal representation or advocacy that they so much deserve hence life goes on within departments. Well, Stark County in Ohio has had a major wake-up call and I pray that other police departments and sheriff departments will be called out for illegal actions.

Hope Steffey was assaulted by another woman in Paris Township, Stark County, Ohio. A 911 call resulted in Officer Gurlea with the Stark County Sheriff’s department being dispatched to the scene. Gurlea questioned Steffey, asked her for her identification, but she mistakenly gave the officer her deceased sister’s driver’s license which Hope had kept as a personal memento of her sister. When Hope “immediately noticed her mistake” she asked Officer Gurlea to return her sister’s license, but Gurlea refused. While trying to explain to Gurlea, she “begged” for the return but he still refused.

Hope had been assaulted, with facial bleeding and a bald spot on her head where her hair has been pulled out by the woman who allegedly assaulted her. Hope became visibly upset with what was transpiring. Hope’s cousin, Trinette Zorger reminded Gurlea that Hope was the VICTIM, she had been knocked unconscious and was acting “uncharacteristically loud and upset.”

Officer Gurlea still refused to acknowledge Hope’s injuries or call for medical help. When Hope asked Gurlea again for her sister’s license back the Officer turned and angrily responded, “Shut up about your dead sister.” Hope reminded Gurlea that her sister was here, she was someone (meaning that she was once alive and her life counted and that she meant the world to her).

Gurlea exploded into rage and without provocation turned toward Hope and physically slammed her face into his cruiser, breaking one of her teeth. He pinned her against his cruiser with his pelvic area, twisted Hope’s arm high up behind her back, which inflicted extreme pain in which her reaction showed.

Officer Gurlea then picked up Hope up off the ground and slammed her, face-first, into the dirt road, causing her nose to hit hard against the ground, causing cuts and bruises. Hope’s chest and lungs were jammed into the ground by the entire weight of Gurlea’s body and knees, blood began streaming down her face and neck. With his knees in her back, Zorger (her cousin) saw that Hope couldn’t breath. She screamed at Gurlea, “She can’t breathe, let her go, you’re hurting her.”

Steffey was handcuffed and thrown in the back of Gurlea’s cruiser, still no medical attention was obtained for her. Hope Steffey was on her way to the Stark County Safety Building (jail) and what follows is of the most upsetting nature.

Hope was taken into a room and told to face the wall where approximately six deputies/guards/staff, some male, surrounded her in the small room. She was asked if she any weapons or sharp objects, Hope replied “no.” Hope was told to stand on a line, face front and answer a nurse’s questions. She complied. With no warning, no words were spoken by Hope’s assailants, her legs were knocked out from under her and face was jammed hard into the floor.

The video below obtained is graphic, has offensive language and upsetting…but you must see and listen to Hope’s pleads, unnecessary abuse and ILLEGAL strip search. You will never forget this video footage. Yes, this search was clearly sexual abuse and assault, and even rape.

Mind you that the title of the video is to somehow put into your mind that the strip search was for her benefit – not others! “SUICIDE PRECAUTIONS…” Cut me a break!

I know that each of you at this point is staring at your monitors, the video footage is replaying in your minds and you are all asking, “how in the world could this happen?” Hope was truly VICTIMIZED BEYOND WORDS!

Now imagine if it was your wife, your daughter, or your mother getting forcefully stripped after calling the police for help! It has now been discovered that at least 128 women between 1999 and 2007 were strip-searched, forced to remove their clothing or placed on suicide watch or homicide watch or “naked detention” at Sheriff Swanson’s jail. Hope was held in a cell for six hours, covering her body in toilet paper to keep warm and to prevent anyone from seeing her naked. During this time she was not allowed to use a phone or seek medical assistance for injuries sustained.

Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson denied all charges. The sheriff’s policy requires officers conducting any strip search to be of the same sex, the sheriff contended that the tactic used on Hope was not actually a strip search. Then what the hell would you call it? Personally…I call it rape! Male officers removed her panties, held her down, used force and in my opinion the female officers were just as much at fault – they did not order the males to leave according to policy and procedure set forth. For God’s sake if they needed the males for assistance with Hope they would be right outside of the cell door! And, did you notice that the last two officers leaving the cell were males?

Officers, male and female, are taught in Basic Law Enforcement Training a move called, “Point of Domination” – so that’s a crock or perhaps they missed this training! Ladies, if you can’t do your jobs and subdue a female prisoner who is not under any influence; then you are in the wrong damn field! Or get behind a desk and push papers as you certainly do not belong in the “field” not knowing what you are doing nor how to do it.

Hope was told by a guard that her charges were “resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.” Wouldn’t you resist basically being raped, clothes being torn off you, not communicated any charges against you? OH HELL YES YOU WOULD! And what threat did this small woman pose? She was at their mercy – but no respect or was she dignified at any time throughout her entire ordeal? NO!

Hope Steffey filed suit against the Stark Count sheriff, deputies, and commissioners. The good news is that U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd in a court order that the plaintiff’s, including Sheriff Tim Swanson and the Stark County Board of Commissions, “have entered into a resolution of the plaintiff’s case against those defendants, reserving only a determination by the Court as to the amount of attorney fees and costs.” The amount of the settlement, however, is undisclosed, a rather strange thing given that it would appear that the cost of the police abuse of Hope Steffey will be born by the taxpayers. Don’t they have the right to know just how much their police have cost them? Since when does government impropriety get to be swept under the rug so that the citizens, for whom the cops exists, are left to wonder?

There has been no admission of guilt by Sheriff Swanson nor the department. County officials had no reaction either. Personally, I am shocked that all from the top down are in law enforcement – if they are at this time, including the county officials. Talk about the good ole boys.

The good news is……It is great to hear that Hope Steffey received a settlement for the harm done in this shocking case, though disappointing that the local sheriff would still hide from what happened. Again, Hope Steffey will live with this ordeal the rest of her life! There is no amount of money/settlement that will or can erase this experience.

It is a shame that the full array of what went horribly wrong won’t be aired publicly as a message to police everywhere. And it’s a shame that the individual cops involved WON’T have to pay personally for what they did do this young woman and others.

It’s not everything one could want in a settlement but it is better than giving these sick, perverted, disgraceful cops (males and females) medals. Sad that a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Take care and STAY SAFE!

Ohio Judge Orders Rape Victims to Take Polygraph; Ms Magazine Blog

March 21, 2010 1 comment

File this under “For Real?!”

Cleveland, Ohio Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd is forcing sexual assault survivors to take polygraph tests before their attackers are sentenced. To date, at least four teenage girls have been ordered to do so. All have refused.

According to reports from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, even prosecutors see the problem. Ordering sex crime survivors to undergo polygraph testing exceeds judicial authority over victims, says Assistant County Prosecutor Nicole Ellis.

Plain Dealer reporters Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi write that Judge Floyd also “ordered the teenage boys who were accused of rape and other sex crimes in those cases to undergo polygraph examinations as part of an assessment done before the teens would be sentenced.” Although the defendants have not objected, this raises procedural concerns about due process for teens in the legal system.

But back to the sexual assault survivors. Still not sure what the problem is? Here’s the breakdown:

• The judge’s order may violate Ohio’s rape shield law, which is intended to prevent courts from effectively trying the victim instead of the defendant.

• Forcing victims to take a polygraph test violates the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

• Polygraph testing can be intimidating for rape survivors who already have difficulty in coming forward. Cleveland Rape Crisis Center president and CEO Megan O’Bryan tells Ms.:

We want to create a culture where survivors are supported in coming forward. Forced polygraph testing sends a message that survivors’ stories are not believed.

This sort of order contributes to the fact that sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) indicates that a mere 39 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement agencies.

Of those assaults reported, even fewer lead to convictions, partly because of extreme delays in testing rape kits. Yet, according to a 2009 publication by researchers from The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, false reports of sexual assault are only between 2 to 8 percent. Ashleigh Klein, a Los Angeles-based sexual assault prevention educator, points out that polygraph testing adds to problem of discouraging reporting and encouraging misinformation. She tells Ms.:

In my work I repeatedly hear the myth that women lie about rape to get back at men or because they are embarrassed by what they have done. We know that this just isn’t true. Reporting a rape and having a rape kit exam done can be extremely devastating to someone who has just experienced trauma. A very small percentage of women would voluntarily go through this invasive process and not be telling the truth.

Clearly, when it comes to sexual assault, what’s needed is more streamlined criminal justice procedure, not further blockades to victim support. We hope Judge Floyd gets the message.

Take care and STAY SAFE!

Ohio Senate passes DATING VIOLENCE BILL TO EDUCATE STUDENTS!

December 24, 2009 Comments off

(AP) — COLUMBUS, Ohio – The state Senate has given its overwhelming approval to a bill that would require Ohio schools to teach about the dangers of abusive relationships.

The measure that passed 32-0 on Wednesday would have health classes provide lessons in dating violence prevention to students in the seventh through 12th grades.

The legislation has been nicknamed “Tina’s Law” after a southwest Ohio 18-year-old who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1992. The killing led Tina Croucher’s parents to form a nonprofit organization to combat domestic violence.

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