Two Real Women Super Heroes Help Lock Up 200 Sex Offenders

Did you know that not every rape kit taken gets tested? I always just thought it was a given, but apparently there are thousands of them just sitting around in police stations, collecting dust. Thanks to two reporters, Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi, that's all changing.


Reporting for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dissell and Atassi spent five years investigating how rape kits were processed in their city. What they found was shocking -- over 4,000 kits hadn't been tested in Cleveland alone.

When a rape kit is done for a victim of a sexual assault, evidence is collected from their clothes and body in the immediate aftermath of the crime. The process can be invasive and traumatic, which makes it even more disturbing that not all the results are processed or catalogued.

Their reporting led to a public outcry, and eventually a change in Ohio law requiring all rape kits to be tested. Over 2,000 investigations have been renewed since then, and more than 200 serial rapists have been identified.

Dissell told Refiery29 that cities in Ohio voluntarily started testing older kits before the law was even passed. She said, "The testing has been ramping up since 2012 -- and the first indictment was in March of 2013. Since then, there have been over 300 indictments in cases just based on these older rape kits. When I say 'older,' I mean from 1993 up until about 2009."

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So much tragedy could have been prevented if police departments tested all kits that they had collected. Dissell recalled one case in particular where a rapist's crimes escalated over time. She said, "He started raping prostitutes, sex workers, drug addicts -- he would corner women in alleys. Some of these women would try to report things to the police; they gave very good descriptions of him. The police never caught him until ... some very early evidence testing [was done, and] they caught him on a couple of cases. But, by the time they caught him, he had gone on to rape a college student ... a schoolteacher in her home, and an elementary school student. So, he escalated his crimes to other folks."

While it's appalling that so many heinous crimes could've been prevented if timely testing had taken place, the work that Dissell and Atassi have done is a testament to how anyone can change the system and make the world a better place. All it takes is determination to find the truth and shed some light on it.

Who knows how many future crimes they have prevented just by asking questions? They are truly real life superheroes.

Are you appalled that so many rape kits have gone untested?


Image via © Ann Johansson/Corbis

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