Student project helps sex crime victims

Steve Bushong

Geauga County resident Sandra Hite was 6 years old when she began a lifelong struggle.

At the hands of her father, Hite said she endured incest, rape and molestation. The abuse continued for 10 years until 1963 when, she said as many rape victims do, she forgot about her past and moved on.

But in the ’90s, Hite’s nightmare returned. This time, her four daughters and other girls who were left alone with her father suffered a similar fate.

His nature was uncovered when a mother found the man perpetrating a “disgusting act” with her young daughter, according to Hite’s Web site.

He died before the trial began.

Though home ridden with a severe bladder disease stemming from her childhood sexual abuse, Hite is seeking vindication. With the support of Ohio Sen. Kevin Coughlin, she has been working toward the passing of Senate Bill 229. If passed, the bill would require major sex offenders in Ohio to drive with pink license plates.

“Even though we can see them on the Internet, we know where they live, when you get off the Internet, you may not be able to recognize this person, and by the time you think, ‘Where did I see this person?’ it may be too late,” Hite said.

As part of a project for their non-violence class, a group of Kent State students is helping Hite achieve her goal.

Joe Cush, senior conflict management major, and six others hope their group, Sexual Assault Awareness Project, will raise awareness of sexual offenders.

“(Sexual assault) is a pretty serious topic, so if there’s something we can do, we should,” he said.

“The pink license plates make people at elementary schools aware there’s a predator nearby,” Cush said, adding the plates would work much like DUI plates.

About half the students’ grade is determined by how they affect their issue, said class instructor Karen Cunningham.

After searching the Web for angles to follow on their project, the students decided to help the push for pink license plates.

The group is only a few weeks into its project. It has set up a Facebook account as well as a Web site. Fliers and sidewalk chalking are soon to come.

“I think (the group) is a good thing,” Hite said. “People don’t realize what (sexual assault) does to a person — it takes your whole mind, your soul.”

The group’s Web site,, includes several links to information about Hite, the pink plates and the petition the group is supporting. As of yesterday, the petition had 3,187 signatures.

“It’s interesting to see where it goes from here,” Cunningham said. “Sometimes people accomplish things they never thought they would.”

Contact safety reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].