COLUMBUS, Ohio — (Reporter’s note: the following story contains details about women’s experiences with sexual assault. We wanted to provide this notice in advance if that might be triggering for some readers/viewers).
It was supposed to be her summer.
Kacie Wilson’s plans to spend her summer living and working at Cedar Point - an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio known for its thrilling rides - was supposed to be the summer where she did something for herself.
It ended abruptly with a phone call to her mother.
“This is like Mother's Day. She shouldn’t be getting this call on Mother's Day. Like – her only daughter – she shouldn’t have to worry about this,” Kacie Wilson said.
She was calling to tell her mother she’d been raped.
It happened in one of the dorms designated for employees of the amusement park.
She wasn’t alone.
A 10 Investigates’ review of police reports from the Sandusky Police Department shows that since 2017 there have been 27 reports of alleged sexual assault, rape and other sex offenses connected to women who worked at Cedar Point. Almost all the reports alleged the sexual violence occurred in or around the employee dorms.
Of those cases - two men have been charged with sexual offenses.
As part of a collaborative reporting effort with our sister stations – WTOL in Toledo and WKYC in Cleveland – we interviewed survivors of these sexual assaults, along with experts on sexual violence, Sandusky police and attempted to get answers from Cedar Point officials.
Three women who did come forward described scenarios of a party-like culture in and around the employee dorms, and that the sexual violence they say they endured happened at the hands of colleagues – not strangers.
The women also told us they at times felt frustrated by the criminal justice process and felt let down by the response from Cedar Point.
One woman who spoke to 10 Investigates over the phone and asked not to be identified – said she was raped in a dorm room and reported the incident to her resident assistant. She said Sandusky police took a report and she had a rape kit done at a local hospital. She never told her family about the incident but told 10 Investigates she felt like she hadn’t heard back from police. No one has been charged with her case. She told me she’s tried to move on.
Another woman, Raven Jones, was asked in an interview with our sister station WKYC what she thought about the 27 reported incidents of sexual violence at the park since 2017.
“It’s unsettling. It’s scary – it makes me angry,” Raven Jones said. “The fact that these things are happening and they’re allowing it. It’s extremely disturbing.”
“How in any circumstance could that have been considered consensual?”
Raven told WKYC that she was sexually assaulted last August by a person she considered a friend – a male colleague. She acknowledged that that night she had been drinking and smoking with other friends and later went to watch TV with this co-worker and his roommates.
Intoxicated – she said she woke up the next day confused and sore.
“Well, my sweater shawl thing was on the floor with my shirt and I didn't know where my pants were. And I woke up and there was a condom stuck to my leg,” she said.
Raven said she got up and abruptly left after a blunt conversation when she says he told her he had “(expletive) to do that day.”
Raven said friends encouraged her to report it to Cedar Point authorities. Sandusky police took a report. But it would be days, Raven said, before the man she accused would be removed from work and weeks before she says police followed up.
WKYC asked for clarification about if she saw her alleged attacker after the incident. Raven said: “So there was encounters where, you know, I would see him and then I would have to go the opposite direction…”
Raven later said she was told by Sandusky police that they had done an interview with her alleged attacker.
“They said that he said it was consensual. And this is where I got really angry. And it, because I was like, how, how in any circumstance could that have been considered consensual? I was intoxicated. I was asleep,” she said.
Raven told WKYC that she left Cedar Point following the incident. She said she has struggled mentally and needs to be in counseling but is not.
“I had gotten to a point where honestly, I didn't want to be alive anymore. And I got to that point where I was just like, I can't take it anymore,” Raven said.
As of this reporting, no one has been charged in her case but she says her case is still actively being investigated.
Kacie Wilson and another woman who agreed to be interviewed but asked that her name be withheld – spoke to our sister station WTOL in Toledo. They described similar scenarios of partying in and around the dorms. Both state they were sexually assaulted and left their jobs at Cedar Point feeling let down by the amusement park’s response to the situations.
“I am like a heavy sleeper, I don't wake up to alarm clocks or anything … I woke up to him inside of me I pushed him away and I got up and I just left,” Kacie Wilson said.
Wilson said she was raped during the same weekend as her employee orientation. She left and claims she didn't hear back from Cedar Point.
“I figured someone would contact me and say are you ok? If I needed anything because I was one of their workers. But they clearly did not care,” she said.
The man who attacked Kacie Wilson was later convicted of sexual battery and sent to prison.
The other woman who asked to be identified only as “L”, has filed a lawsuit against Cedar Point and its parent company, Cedar Fair, over her alleged sexual assault.
“L” spoke to WTOL, stating she was raped by a man who came to her dorm room late at night. She said the man forced himself on her and made her smoke a vape pen.
“The whole time I was trying to kick him off and he was hurting my leg and I couldn't but I was thinking in my head what am I going to do. If I yelled what was anyone going to do, it was 5 a.m.,” she said.
“L” said her alleged attacker was interviewed by Sandusky police but later fled the country. No one has been charged.
“But to him, it's like a trophy. He can just tell his friends that I led him on or something. It's a he said/she said so … I don't think he is thinking about it,” she said.
Last fall, "L" filed this federal lawsuit against Cedar Point and its parent company Cedar Fair – after she says she was raped.
In response to that lawsuit, attorneys for Cedar Point have asked a judge to dismiss it, claiming "L's" argument of a hostile work environment lacks merit.
The amusement park's attorneys also said the alleged sexual assault happened "outside of (her) work hours" and was "a single, isolated incident for which the Defendants did not and could not have foreseen."
“L” told WTOL: "I don't think people should live there because they are claiming they are not liable. But they are letting people live there.”
Sandusky Police Chief Jared Oliver told WKYC that in more than half of the 27 sex offenses reported, women stopped cooperating with authorities. The women interviewed by 10 Investigates, WTOL and WKYC mentioned feeling frustrated at times by the length of time of the criminal investigations.
When asked about this, Oliver said: “I apologize if things take time but sometimes they take time and that's out of our hands,” he said, referring to wait times associated with waiting on lab results for toxicology or sexual assault kits which he said can take months before they’re returned.
Cedar Point has its own police agency. And it's not clear how many additional cases they may have investigated. They haven’t responded to a request for more information from WTOL.
Sandusky police only get involved when they're alerted by Cedar Point, Oliver said.
“If we are called, I say if, we may or may not be called. But if we are called and we go to the scene then we take over the scene. If there is an arrest that needs to be made our officers make that arrest,” Chief Oliver said.
A perfect storm
10 Investigates took what we’ve learned to Nicole Bedera, a sociologist and expert in sexual violence in campus settings. Nicole told us these types of incidents unfortunately are quite common in these settings.
“We are really talking about a perfect storm of risk factors here right,” Nicole Bedera told 10 Investigates. “Social scientists know these are predicative if you are seeing cases happen over and over it's because there is a climate in that space that allows sexual violence to persist it makes it more predictable each year.”
Nicole told 10 Investigates that survivors of sexual violence need to know they are supported and employers like Cedar Point could do things like partner with a rape crisis center.
“And so we need to be thinking about how do survivors would know that they would be believed and supported, that they wouldn't lose their jobs, and their homes,” Bedera said.
In a statement, Cedar Point spokesman Tony Clark told 10 Investigates:
“The safety of our guests and associates is always our top priority. Through a variety of methods, our on-site housing is monitored 24/7. In addition, our team is available to assist associates at any time with multiple resources, including on-site security, an emergency texting program, a dedicated and confidential associate “Speak-Up Hotline” and access to mental health programs. Associates are made aware of these resources during their onboarding process.
Cedar Point takes these matters very seriously. All reports of associate misconduct are immediately responded to, reviewed, and if appropriate, escalated to local law enforcement for further investigation.”
10 Investigates followed up with Cedar Point this week, asking for an interview and additional comment about the allegations the women raised that they felt the response they received from the park after their alleged sexual assaults were inadequate.
Clark referred 10 Investigates to its previous statement which did not directly address our questions.
A media preview event at Cedar Point property which had been scheduled for Thursday has been canceled. When asked if it had anything to do with our reporting, Clark said it “was canceled so our team at Castaway can prepare for guests to arrive Friday – it has nothing to do with any outside influence.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, the Ohio Sexual Violence Helpline is a 24/7 confidential resource available so survivors can talk to trained advocates. They can be reached at 844-OHIO-HELP. You can also visit their website at https://www.ohiosexualviolencehelpline.com/.
10 Investigates is continuing to look into this story. If you have something you’d like us to know, please feel free to email our team at email@example.com.