Local rally focuses on ’01 assault

Members of Amerisec, a subgroup of the Internet activist organization Anonymous, rallied in front of the Washington County Courthouse Sunday in support of a woman who says she was raped by fellow high school students in Hocking County 12 years ago.

Amanda Stevenson, 26, now living in the Washington, D.C., area, said she came back to Ohio to have investigation into her rape case reopened so that those responsible can finally be brought to justice.

“I feel I have the right to face them in court, and that’s why we’re rallying for support from the community,” she said.

When the alleged rape occurred in 2001, Stevenson was a 14-year-old, living with her family in the Laurelville area where she attended Logan Elm High School in Pickaway County.

“I went to a party in Hocking County with some friends after a basketball game,” she explained. “I was a cheerleader, but it was the first after-game party I’d ever been to. I never thought anything like this would happen.”

Stevenson said there were several youths involved in the alleged rape, and three were members of the wrestling team-a senior and two sophomores.

“They gave me a drug of some kind, although it didn’t show up in the toxicology report,” she said. “I was awake during the whole incident, but couldn’t move my body.”

The Hocking County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation of the incident and interviewed some of those who attended the party, Stevenson said.

“They talked to about six people, but three of them were the perpetrators,” she said. “Meanwhile people started taunting me, and someone threw a brick through our car window while it was parked in the driveway.”

Stevenson said the teasing and taunting grew so intense that the family eventually moved from the Laurelville area to a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.

She said the Hocking County investigation apparently “just fizzled out” after the family left town.

Stevenson said no one, including parents nor herself, wanted to discuss the rape once they moved to Virginia.

“I didn’t want to stop living my life,” she said. “So I kind of buried the incident for many years.”

Then a couple of months ago Stevenson heard about “Jane Doe,” a 16-year-old girl from Weirton, W.Va., who was allegedly raped by two Steubenville High School football players last year.

“A friend told me about her, and it was very close to my case, so I decided it was time for me to speak out,” she said.

Because her case was so similar to Jane Doe, Stevenson was interviewed by CNN personnel who also encouraged her to have the investigation reopened.

A close friend, Tim Tolka, 32, from Illinois, agreed.

“She was just silent about this-keeping it secret,” he said. “When she told me about it I was really impacted. I encouraged her to come forward and seek justice, and if she wanted to pursue it I would stand up and support her.”

Tolka said after Stevenson found out about the Steubenville incident she decided to return to Ohio and retrieve the investigation files from her own case.

Stevenson said the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office at first told her they had no records of the case.

But shortly after an Anonymous-affiliated group posted information about the 12-year-old case online, two detectives from the sheriff’s office traveled to Virginia to interview Stevenson and reopen the case.

“The only records they were able to find were the same ones I obtained while back in Ohio-my hospital record and child services records,” she said.

Stevenson was told the rape kit used at the hospital immediately after the 2001 incident had been lost due to vandalism at the sheriff’s office.

“That was really upsetting because the rape kit contained DNA evidence that could have identified the perpetrators,” she said. “So essentially they were saying there was no evidence-it had all sort of disappeared.”

Stevenson said the reopened investigation is continuing, but detectives have told her, without evidence, about the only way for the case to move forward would be if someone confesses to the alleged crime.

“They said they have tracked down at least one of the perpetrators (who has denied being part of the alleged rape), and detectives said a lie detector test will prove whether he’s telling the truth,” she said. “But I’m a little ambivalent about that because this happened so long ago, and a lie detector isn’t foolproof.”

Stevenson said detectives do not believe a grand jury will recommend her case to court unless they can obtain a confession of some kind.

The Hocking County Sheriff’s office was contacted, but could provide no information about the alleged Stevenson rape case. Sheriff Lanny North was not available for comment Sunday.

“Ideally the sheriff’s department would work together with us to resolve her case and prevent this from happening again,” said Tolka. “We won’t give up.”

As she continues to pursue her reopened case, Stevenson said she also plans to attend a rally in Steubenville Wednesday, supporting justice for 16-year-old Jane Doe.

Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale, and Malik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville, are slated to stand trial that day for the alleged rape.

The case is being prosecuted by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

Now the mother of a 6-year-old, Stevenson said she’s concerned about the world in which her daughter is growing up.

“It scares me,” Stevenson said. “A lot of people I have spoken with know someone who’s had an experience similar to mine.”

Stevenson is also building a non-profit organization that would focus on assisting rape victims like herself and Jane Doe.

“The ultimate goal is to establish a network of attorneys from every state that specialize and will work with such cases-to help victims strategize and grow from victims into plaintiffs against their rapists,” she said.

She said it’s empowering to be able to help others discover the strength to move forward and seek to face those who have assaulted them.

Justin Fort, 23, of New Matamoras, helped coordinate the AmeriSec rally for Stevenson.

“We wanted this rally in Marietta to give some voice to Amanda’s case,” he said. “We feel the best way to help move her case into court is to get as many eyes on it as possible,” he said. “I’ll also be traveling to Steubenville Wednesday to support Jane Doe and bring more attention to cases like Amanda’s.”