Last week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the latest numbers on his state’s efforts to end its backlog of untested rape kits, which currently stands at 4,956.
According to his office’s update, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has so far completed testing on 2,369 of those kits, which has led to 766 hits in CODIS, the national DNA databank.
As kits are being tested, potential perpetrators are being identified throughout the state, many from cases dating back decades.
"We thought they had value. We didn't know how much—I've been stunned, said Attorney General DeWine.
In Cuyahoga County, suspects have now been identified, including several potential serial rapists. The county prosecutor’s office believes there are more who have yet to be identified.
Last month, Cleveland’s Police Chief appeared before the city’s Public Safety Committee, noting that testing there has led to 471 hits in CODIS and 61 indictments involving 98 victims. Police there expect to complete testing of the backlog—which dates back 17 years—by late spring, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Allyssa Allison was raped 20 years ago in her home in Cleveland and knows firsthand the backlog’s impact on survivors’ healing, pursuit of justice and sense of safety. She recently spoke to WKYC about her long wait for justice.
"I kind of gave up. I didn't think they took me seriously... My calls were unreturned…. I had to keep calling and say don't forget about me... Our rape kits were on a shelf and they were collecting dust," she said.
Just this summer, she was informed that the DNA from the kit from her case was tested. The DNA belonged to her former landlord, whose DNA was also connected to several other women.
DeWine first announced the state’s rape kit testing initiative in December 2011 by offering free DNA testing to any law enforcement agency with untested rape kits from cases in which a crime was believed to have been committed.
"In the past month we've received more than 400 additional kits for testing, and we continue to urge law enforcement agencies to send us any previously untested rape kits so that they too can be tested for DNA," said Attorney General DeWine last week.
Every untested rape kit represents a lost opportunity for healing and justice for a survivor and a possible perpetrator who wasn’t held accountable for his crime. Though decades is too long to wait for justice, officials like Attorney General DeWine—and the law enforcement officials who are sending their rape kits for testing—are trying to fix their backlogs. We commend the Attorney General not only for prioritizing rape kit testing, but for creating a model of transparency around the policy and testing progress since it began two years ago.
To advocate for reform and transparency from your elected officials, click here.
To support our efforts to shed light on and end the rape kit backlog consider a donation to our ENDTHEBACKLOG work here.
- By Lendon Ebbels, December 11, 2013