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3News Investigates: Critics believe culture inside Cedar Point dorms may fuel sexual assaults

Advocates, experts and victims believe uncontrolled alcohol, drug use can often lead to violence.

SANDUSKY, Ohio — To reach 3News Investigates, email the staff at investigate@wkyc.com

Their stories are strikingly similar.

All from inside the dorms of Cedar Point where some workers say a culture has been molded over the years based on the urges of young adults, leaving a path of sexual assault survivors in its wake.

“It’s not all fun and games. It can be a dangerous place,” said former employee Raven Jones, 19, who worked at the park in August, when she told police she was sexually assaulted by a fellow dorm resident.

Another former worker, a Toledo area woman now suing the Sandusky amusement park over the own sexual assault in 2020, echoed the same concerns.

RELATED: 3News Investigates: Cedar Point and shattered summer dreams

“There’s people out there partying and like blasting the music and smoking and drinking and so I wouldn’t be out there at nighttime by myself,” she said.

Things amplified in 2021, amid a national pandemic. Businesses were desperate for workers. Cedar Point, needing over 6,000 summer workers, dangled high-pay and low-cost housing to lure college-age men and women.

It worked drawing 18-year-old candidates like Raven Jones and her future husband, Dylon Kikel.

“Going into it, I thought, wow, I can make $20 an hour and wow, I can meet so many new people. Wow, it’s going to be fun, I’m going to have a good time,” Kikel recalled.

“And then, well, life didn’t really turn out that well.”

It was inside the Cedar Point dorms where a 3News investigation found 27 reports of sexual assaults filed with Sandusky police since 2017.

RELATED: 3News Investigates: How 24 alleged sexual assaults at Cedar Point employee dorms have gone uncharged

In 2021, when Cedar Point heavily marketed its $20 an hour salary to draw as many workers as possible, there were the most sexual assaults reported. Ten in all.

Each case involves Cedar Point co-workers serving as perpetrators or prey. Still, just three cases ended in arrest. There were 15 others dropped at the accuser’s request and three dropped by prosecutors citing lack of evidence.

Six, including Jones' case, remain under investigation.

"These reports are horrifying," Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said Thursday. "Cedar Point must do everything within its power to investigate this. Companies have a responsibility to make sure that seasonal workers who live in employee housing are safe, both on and off the clock."

Cedar Point's spokesman has declined repeated requests to discuss the sexual assault reports. The park has instead issued a statement:

“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."

Sexual assault advocates say when victims drop their cases, it’s a sign of trouble.

“When survivors come forward and then choose to walk away from the criminal justice process, it is usually about the way they were treated in that process. They feel like they weren’t believed, they weren’t supported,” said Sondra Miller of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Cedar Point has its own police force, state-certified with full arrest powers. The department refuses to release their own reports, leaving many to wonder if more assaults exist.

“What strikes me is that there's potentially not more cases happening,” said Sarah Ferrato of the advocacy group Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

“And then also the risks, right? Of maybe not having policies and procedures in place that would prevent sexual violence from happening.”

Neither Cedar Point, its police chief, nor Erie County’s prosecutor would answer our questions about the dorm culture that critics say contributes to sexual assaults, underage drinking and drug use, which caused 13 overdoses in recent years.

Sandusky police Chief Jared Oliver told 3News Investigates that Cedar Point remains a safe place to work.

“Do you ever have reports of people under 21 drinking?,” 3 News Investigates Marisa Saenz asked.

“We do,” the chief said.

“There being drugs?”

“We do… Sometimes people drink underage. Sometime people use illicit drugs.”

But in the end, Oliver said, “Cedar Point is a very safe place.”

To sociologist and campus dorm culture expert Nicole Madera, cultures like the one Cedar Point employees criticize as too permissive and uncontrolled, cannot be dismissed as trivial.

There are consequences, she said.

“We are talking about young people,” Madera said. “And then there's drugs and alcohol, which makes it really easy to blame victims if something does take place. It's really easy to dismiss it as a party culture. Rather than a violent culture."


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