Cedar Point and shattered summer dreams: 3News investigates
At least 27 sexual assaults reported to police from inside Cedar Point employee dorms since 2017 have led to only 3 arrests and call for a culture change.
SANDUSKY, Ohio — For 19-year-old Raven Jones, the odds have always been higher. His wonderful years, an anxious ascent.
The broken home, the multiple moves, the new schools. The new bullies.
“Whether it was people joking about connecting the dots with my freckles, my weight, my height, my hair color… anything,” she told 3News Investigates.
She scarred her wrists with cuts, to soothe the pain inside.
“This is what my friends like to call the bracelet phase. Because, you know, wear a lot of bracelets. I had all kinds of bracelets,” she said.
But thanks to those friends and some advice, she made it through, graduating from New London High School, located about 35 miles southeast of Sandusky. Jones was even voted “most gullible” by his classmates, largely due to his kindness and confidence.
It was in the spring of 2021. Like many, she was tired of school. She sought to take a year off, delaying her dream of becoming a cosmetologist.
She needed a summer job, and Cedar Point presented itself as a top choice for pandemic-weary teenagers.
Cedar Point dangled high-wage, low-cost employee dormitories to attract thousands of teenage boys needed to staff the venerable Sandusky Park.
“My dad was like, you should go work for Cedar Point,” she said. “I’m like, why. He said, it’s $20 an hour, that’s double what you make at the nursing home.”
She applied online and was hired almost immediately. She packed her things and headed over to Sandusky to start her new adventure away from home. And everything seemed so perfect, at first. “It’s like college, but instead of going to school, you have work. I’m just like, ‘Oh, that sounds like fun. That sounds like something I’d like to experience “Who wouldn’t?”
These visions of summer perfection soon clouded over. In August, Raven was sexually assaulted in her dorm.
A 3News investigation, conducted with stations in Tegna, WTOL in Toledo and WBNS in Columbus, revealed that his story is far from the only one. This week, 3News will report several stories with other women who have filed reports of sexual assault, and responses from law enforcement, survivor advocates, ex-workers.
Using Ohio’s public records laws, Tegna stations have obtained 27 sexual assault reports that Sandusky police have investigated since 2017. Of those 27 cases, only three have resulted in charges.
The investigation also uncovered complaints about an out-of-control culture inside employee dormitories. Former workers say lax security has led to parties, alcohol abuse by underage workers and drug use that has led to multiple calls to 9-1-1 for overdoses.
Cedar Point has its own state-licensed police department that often took first calls. So far, the ministry has refused to release its reports.
“I had gotten to a point where I honestly didn’t want to be alive anymore,” Jones said.
Three victims have come forward alleging that Cedar Point allows the culture to fester and doesn’t care about assaults on workers.
“I was spiraling,” Jones said. “I got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I can not. It seemed to go from bad to worse, like gnawing at me. I was so overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings that I just couldn’t take it.”
Cedar Point officials have refused repeated requests to discuss the sexual assault reports. Instead, they released a statement:
“The safety of our guests and associates is always our top priority. Through various methods, our on-site accommodation is monitored 24/7. Additionally, our team is available to assist associates at any time with multiple resources, including on-site security, an emergency text message program, a dedicated and confidential “Speak-Up Hotline” for associates, and the access to mental health programs. Associates are made aware of these resources during their onboarding process.
Cedar Point takes these issues very seriously. All reports of associate misconduct are immediately addressed, investigated and, if appropriate, referred to local law enforcement for further investigation.
For Raven Jones, the night of her attack happened in her dorm after a booze game last August with co-workers. Raven said she lost her struggle to stay awake.
“Well, that’s all I remember of that night. And then I woke up the next morning… My shawl sweater… 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.”
In her bed next to her was her attacker, a colleague she barely knew but a man she now feared. Struggling to remember the events and what to do, she then met with a Sandusky police officer and was given an intrusive sexual assault exam.
“I was just freaking out. I was just like, I have no idea what to do. I was, I was angry,” she said.
In the days that followed, her attacker continued to work. She also tried to work before speaking to a human resources worker from Cedar Point. She said she was offered leave, but without pay.
It would be months before she met a Sandusky police detective. She wanted to file a complaint. But the meeting did not go well.
“[The detective] was almost daunting for me to go further on more than one occasion. And it was upsetting because I felt discouraged to get justice for what happened,” Jones said.
It was the last time she saw the police. As for Cedar Point…
“Nothing. Cedar Point doesn’t care.
Police Chief Jared Oliver denies his detective tried to dissuade Raven from pressing charges.
He said the department had tried several times to arrange an earlier interview, but connecting with the accuser was difficult because Raven had moved and changed his phone number.
Oliver said the investigation was handed over to Erie County District Attorney Kevin Baxter in January to review the charges. So far, no charges have been announced. Baxter did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
For Raven and her family, her personal freefall continues as her abuser and others remain free.
This week, Cedar Point begins to welcome another generation of new summer workers in preparation for its 152nd season.
“It’s disturbing. Scary. It angers me because the fact that these things keep happening and they allow it / it’s extremely disturbing, disturbing and very upsetting,” Raven adds.
More from 3News investigation: