Plain Dealer: David Pepper addresses violence against women at City Club

By Ryllie Danylko, Northeast Ohio Media Group
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on October 01, 2014 at 6:00 PM, updated October 01, 2014 at 6:44 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Democratic candidate for Ohio attorney general David Pepper took several digs at incumbent Mike DeWine’s absence during an appearance Wednesday at the City Club of Cleveland.

Pepper began the forum, which was supposed to be a debate, by expressing his disappointment at DeWine’s refusal to appear, calling it embarrassing for the Republican.

“What kind of attorney is afraid to stand up and make their case?” Pepper asked.

DeWine declined to participate in what was supposed to be a debate, saying the public already had enough opportunities to get to know the candidates at other joint appearances, including one with the Northeast Ohio Media Group editorial board.

Pepper also discussed the state’s heroin epidemic, untested rape kits and domestic violence, among other topics. Here are some highlights.

On Ohio’s heroin epidemic

Pepper said Ohio is taking steps backward in combating a heroin crisis. He noted that the state cut funding for treatment in July and he accused DeWine of acting too late in addressing the crisis.

On violence against women

Pepper discussed the NFL’s recent suspension of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice, who was banned from the league after a video surfaced of him knocking out his fiancee.

Pepper said the fact that it took releasing the tape to get the NFL to take action shows society’s tendency to turn the other cheek on domestic violence.

He also cited the Steubenville rape case, the three Cleveland women held captive for nearly a decade, and the state’s untested rape kits.

Pepper said the attorney general should lead the way with a proactive plan to help prevent domestic violence and change the culture of looking the other way when violence occurs.

On Ohio’s domestic violence laws

Ohio needs to have broader domestic violence laws that capture a wider range of abuses, Pepper said.

Pepper said he also plans to use the attorney general’s office to enforce laws requiring witnesses to report a crime. He referenced the three young men who witnessed the Steubenville rape and failed to report it.

“Those three young men were told by Mr. DeWine that they didn’t commit a crime,” Pepper said.

The candidate also wants to make sure Ohio universities are doing everything they can to address sexual assault and promote safe campuses, as part of a national movement toward preventing rape at universities.

On the untested Cleveland rape kits

Pepper commended DeWine for beginning the process of testing the almost 4,000 untested Cleveland rape kits, but said he is not acting with enough urgency.

Over the past several months, more rape kits were sent to a state lab for testing,  Pepper said. Testing 300 a month is not enough, according to Pepper, especially given the high conviction rate from the kits that have been tested.

Pepper proposed partnering with local labs to share the work of testing the remaining rape kits.

The candidate ended by saying the Attorney General’s Office should be a resource for victims of abuse or assault.

More from the forum, including the Q&A session, can be found in the comments section of this story.