News from 555 Gearhart Road: What should you do if you’re assaulted?

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — In 2016, there were 112,470 reported rapes in the United States. In 2017, in the state of Ohio, there were 5,859 reported rapes.

“Ohio is sixth in the country in reported rapes,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. Lenhart, along with Deputy Cori Steiner, talked about what a woman or man should do if they are raped or sexually assaulted.

“In Shelby County this year, we have 15 reported rapes,” said Lenhart. “We had a few less than that reported last year and in 2016, we had 18 rapes reported. According to some data, some of the rapes are never reported.”

Rape, said Lenhart, is defined as a sexual act forced on a person against his or her will.

“The majority of rapes are committed by a person the victim knows,” said Lenhart.

He shared ideas in which can be used to prevent rapes.

• Carry a whistle or noise maker with you at all times to help raise an alarm if you are attacked.

• Take a self-defense class. The Sheriff’s Office has conducted eight classes so far with 20 participants in each class.

• Never hitchhike. If your vehicle breaks down, don’t accept a ride from stranger. Instead, ask them to call for help while you stay with your vehicle.

• Scream if you are assaulted or attacked.

• If you are walking or jogging alone, stay out of secluded areas.

• Park your vehicle in a well-lit area. Check the back seat of your vehicle before getting into it.

• Make sure your home is locked up.

• If you are using public transportation, sit up front by the driver.

• If you are by yourself, don’t get isolated by people you don’t know.

• Make sure your phone is always charged.

• Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

And if the unthinkable happens and you’re raped? What should you do?

“First,” said Steiner, “is to get some place where you are safe. Then call law enforcement.”

Steiner said the person who has been attacked shouldn’t take a shower after getting to a safe place.

“You might feel dirty, but you shouldn’t take a shower,” said Steiner. “There will be key pieces of evidence on your clothes and body.

“Don’t change your clothes because it could have DNA on it,” she said.

A law enforcement officer, said Steiner, will accompany the victim to the hospital where a sexual assault kit examination will be performed. Both law enforcement and hospital staff will be collecting evidence of the crime.

“Time is important,” said Lenhart. “Don’t wait until the next morning to call law enforcement. Call them right away.”

Once the evidence is collected, it is sent to BCI for testing.Officials will look for DNA matches through CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).

“If the victim knows the suspect, we’ll get a warrant for the person’s DNA,” said Steiner. “If there is no suspect, then officials will continue looking in CODIS for a match.

“Anyone incarcerated,” said Lenhart, “has their DNA taken from them and entered into CODIS. So there’s a big data base for the search to be conducted in.”

Lenhart said the “Me too” movement is bringing awareness to the importance of reporting a sexual assault.

“Everyone needs to know what to do if they are a victim,” said Lenhart. “And to know what law enforcement expects them to do.”

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.