High-profile Steubenville rape case prompts more Cleveland-area sexual assault victims to seek help

CLEVELAND - A day after Steubenville football players, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, were convicted and sentenced for the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, the CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, said the case is prompting other victims to come forward.

"We usually get about one to two calls a day at intake for our therapy program. Last week, our therapists were taking calls eight, nine, 10 calls a day," O'Bryan said.

Victims, who at first never said anything, are now calling for help as a result of this case, according to O'Bryan. Many of them are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
 
"Many victims carry this shame and carry the burden of their victimization with themselves in silence for many, many years," O'Bryan said.

She said seeking help isn't easy, so the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center makes the process as easy as possible by helping victims choose what's best for them.

"If they don't want to report this to police, how can we help them on their healing journey here?" she said.

Nearly 80 percent of sexual assault victims will never report to police out of fear they won't be believed. They also fear retribution from the perpetrator, but O'Bryan said getting help is necessary and deciding against it can be dangerous.

"What that can manifest into is extremely serious health conditions, that includes everything from addiction to physical health issues to mental health issues, physical health issues like depression," she said.

O'Bryan said there is no excuse for sexual assault; even when the victim puts themselves in a so-called "bad situation."  

"Somebody who gets drunk at a party deserves perhaps to get a hangover the next day. They don't deserve to be raped and their dignity be taken away through a violent act that happened in this case and so many cases," O'Bryan said.

She said the number one thing you can do for someone who says they've been raped is to believe them.

Support is a must from friends and family surrounding the victim. O'Bryan said she applauds the parents of the 16-year-old girl at the center of the Steubenville rape case.

"In the Steubenville case, I commend this young girl's family for believing their daughter, supporting their daughter, and taking the case forward and really seeking justice. Because that's what we need to do. We need to get behind people who are victimized by rape," she said. "We need to stand up, believe them, support them unconditionally. I think that they were brave and courageous for standing up against the institution of Steubenville football."

Sexual assault victims are four times more likely to contemplate suicide than the general public, according to statistics.

If you're the victim of sexual assault and you need help, you can call the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center on its 24-hour, anonymous hotline at 216-619-6192.

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