DEFIANCE — A Defiance woman is looking for answers after she was the victim of an attempted rape at ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital last month and says she doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else.
Jennifer Mulka, 35, says she was the victim of a rape attempt at a ProMedica hospital in Defiance.
Jennifer Mulka, 35, was in the Coping Center of the hospital’s psychiatric unit March 24 when a fellow patient attacked her. She said a man entered her room with his pants down and tried to pull down her hospital-issued elastic-waist pants, but she held on tightly to the waistband.
The Blade does not typically identify victims of sexual crimes, but Mrs. Mulka agreed to using her full name. She recalled screaming as loud as she could, but the man threw her to the ground with enough force to knock her unconscious.
“The next thing I remember is me in the corner, a nurse had me in her lap,” she said. “She was crying and rubbing my hair and holding me, telling me it’s going to be OK. It took three nurses to pull him off of me. They found him on top of me.”
Earlier that night Mrs. Mulka said she called her husband, John, asking him to bring her a pillow and some books. He said he was stunned to discover, when he arrived after the attack, that no one had called police.
Mr. Mulka, 35, said he called 911 about 9 p.m., which he estimates was 30 to 40 minutes after the incident.
“I didn’t feel like there was a lot of accountability,” he said. “I don’t want to say they are bad people, but I couldn’t get an explanation of how or why this happened.”
The attacker had been put in a secure room by hospital staff, Mrs. Mulka said.
Defiance police were called to the 1200 Ralston Ave. hospital and arrested Dan Mekus, 45, of Bryan, according to a police report. Police identified Mr. Mekus as a fellow patient and charged him with attempted rape, a second-degree felony.
Defiance County prosecutor Morris Murray said Thursday that Mr. Mekus was transferred from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio to a mental-health facility for evaluation and the matter has been referred to the county grand jury. A call to Mr. Mekus’ attorney, Danny Hill II, was not returned Thursday.
Years of sexual abuse
Mrs. Mulka said she’s long struggled with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after years of sexual abuse that began at age 12. She said she went to the Coping Center once before and was satisfied with care she received there.
Her grandmother’s recent death triggered a panic attack, she said, so she voluntarily checked herself into the hospital last month for what she described as “a timeout” with plans to stay a few days. The Coping Center offers a variety of therapies and evaluations.
The couple said they are speaking out to force change and increase hospital safety.
“This was a ProMedica facility. They are an industry leader in our community in health care,” Mr. Mulka said. “They should set the standard for patient safety, patient care. We feel this was a huge failure. I’m still baffled it could even happen. You go to a hospital to get better, to heal, and someone could just walk into a room and attack you and try to rape you?”
Mrs. Mulka said she had received sedatives in the hospital and psychiatric patients are particularly vulnerable. The couple said they would like to see more video monitoring on the psychiatric floor and more communication about what transpired.
ProMedica spokesman Tedra White said the hospital system is unable to discuss specific cases involving patients. Interim hospital president Dr. Neeraj Kanwal said ProMedica does an internal root-cause analysis after every patient-safety incident, such as an assault, medication error, or patient fall.
Dr. Kanwal said the root-cause analysis on the attempted assault is complete, although he did not give examples of potential changes.
“We will find ways to make improvements,” he said. “That’s the purpose of this, to identify what can you do better.”
He said there have been discussions about installing more cameras in the hospital that date back before the incident to when he took over as interim president in January.
“But anytime there is an incident, your awareness and concern is heightened,” he said. Police are called when “situations get out of hand,” or otherwise warrant outside intervention, he said.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services was notified of the March 24 attempted rape, department spokesman Eric Wandersleben confirmed.
He said department staff will review “the hospital’s process related to the incident, offer technical assistance if needed, and depending upon the outcome, issue a plan of correction.”
This is not the first time Dr. Kanwal has dealt with an assault in a hospital’s psychiatric unit.
Dr. Kanwal in 2014 became president of ProMedica Flower Hospital in Sylvania, two months after a 21-year old female patient in the psychiatric unit was sexually assaulted by another patient.
Though Dr. Kanwal was not president at the time of the incident, he was in charge during a time when safety changes were implemented after a state and federal investigation. Among them, hospital officials changed the way secured entrances, stairwells, and elevators operated at Flower, and required a visual check on patients in the psychiatric unit every 15 minutes. He said the 15-minute policy was instituted at all hospitals in the system with a psychiatric unit, including Defiance.
Jesse Lee Buck was sentenced to 54 months in prison for the 2014 sexual assault.
Trauma to outrage
A report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that detailed the 2014 attack and responsive actions also revealed that a staff member reported that an additional sexual assault occurred in Flower’s psychiatric unit in August, 2011.
Mrs. Mulka said last month’s attack in the hospital exacerbates her previous trauma, triggering nightmares and trouble sleeping.
“The first week I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t eat, [I had] nightmares. I started to regress and I got very scared,” she said.
Then she got angry.
“I am outraged right now and this is my message: This should never happen and I never want it to happen to anyone else. ... As a sexual abuse survivor, I already know what damage it can do. I couldn’t live with myself not speaking up.”
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