Rachel Lovell (PhD, The Ohio State University, 2007) is a Research Assistant Professor at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. She is a sociologist and methodologist who focuses on applied research and evaluation, working with law enforcement, community-based agencies, and public systems to examine the impact of violent behavior that is primarily directed at women and girls—in particular sexual assault, human sex trafficking, and intimate partner violence.
Dr. Lovell is currently the PI a large action research project on untested sexual assault kits in Cuyahoga County, Ohio in collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, with funding provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. She is also the PI on a recently awarded grant from the National Institute of Justice to employ machine learning technology to analyze the narratives of thousands of sexual assault police reports for “signaling” language regarding a victim’s credibility. She has also led evaluations of a sexual assault victim advocacy program and a juvenile human trafficking docket in Cuyahoga County.
She has presented findings from her research at national and international conferences in the criminology, mental/behavioral health, sociology, and related fields, at congressional briefings, and published these results in various professional journals.
Q: Why is your work at the Begun Center important to you, to our community, and to the world? I am not sure I could ever go back to doing more traditional academic research after having been an applied researcher for so long, because applied work is at the core of making a change. In answering the question of ‘so what?’ the sociology I was taught often never engaged the community; we used secondary data sets to explore topics that interested us but we rarely thought about what it would mean or how to explain to others. It was for the sake of intellectual exercise. The work at Begun Center is so fulfilling because it has a direct application to make improvements, and you appeal directly to stakeholders.
Q: What is a cause about which you are particularly passionate? Gender inequality is at the core of most of what I do, in particular gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, workplace gender discrimination, rape, human trafficking, and intimate partner violence.
Awards and Honors
Lovell, R., Collins, C., McGuire, M., Overman, L., Luminais, M., and Flannery, D. (2019). Understanding Intimate Partner Sexual Assaults: Findings from Sexual Assault Kits. Special Issue on Sexual Assaults in Intimate Relationships, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 28(1):2-7.
Lovell, R., Luminais, M., Flannery, D., Bell, R., and Kyker, B. (2018). Describing the Process and Quantifying the Outcomes of the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. Journal of Criminal Justice, 57:106-115.
Lovell, R., Luminais, M., and Flynn, K. (2018). Structural Misgendering of Transgender Sex Workers in Chicago via Mug Shots?: A Case Study of Practicing in the Social Sciences. Practicing Anthropology, 40(1):48-52.
Lovell, R., Flannery, D., and Luminais, M. (2019). “Serial Sexual Offenders Identified from Backlogged Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs)” in The Cambridge Handbook of Violent Behavior and Aggression, 2nd Edition edited by Vazsonyi, A., Flannery, D., & DeLisi, M. NY: Cambridge University Press.
Lovell, R., Singer, Me., Flannery, D., and Luminais, M. (2018). Testing Unsubmitted Rape Kits Saves Money. EndTheBacklog.org.
Clark, D.R., and Lovell, R. (2018). Collaborative Partnerships and the DNA Testing of Unsubmitted SAKs. The Police Chief (Official Publication of the International Association of Chiefs of Police).
Lovell, Rachel, Misty Luminais, Daniel J. Flannery, Laura T. Overman, Duoduo Huang, Tiffany M. Walker, and Dan R. Clark. (2017). Offending patterns for serial sex offenders identified via the DNA testing of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits. Journal of Criminal Justice, ISSN: 0047-2352, Vol: 52, Page: 68-78.
Lovell, R. and Flannery, D. (2016, Nov). Testing of backlogged rape evidence leads to hundreds of convictions. The Conversation.
"Undetected rapists" - Keynote presentation at University of Birmingham Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing annual conference, Birmingham, UK. June 2019.
"Integration, Not Just an Afterthought: How Incorporating Victim Advocates on a Multidisciplinary Cold Case Task Force Has Affected Victim and Prosecutorial Outcomes" - Workshop presentation at International Conference on Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, and Increasing Access (End Violence Against Women Internation conference), San Diego, CA. April 2019.
"A Public Health Approach To Violence Prevention: The Cleveland Experience" - Featured speaker, plenary session, at Teaching Prevention, Cleveland, OH. April 2019.
"Law, Technology, and Protection from Violence Against Women: Can Innovation Flip the Script on this Dialogue?" - Panel presentation at CWRU School of Law - Cleveland, OH. February 2019.
"'What I Read can Never be Un-read': Secondary Trauma from Coding Unsubmitted Rape Kit Case Files." - "Bureaucratic Burden on Sexual Assault Victims: Assessing Sexual Assault Case Outcomes from Previously Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits in Cuyahoga County" - "Examining Differences in the Criminal Histories of Serial vs. Nonserial Sex Offenders Linked to Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits." - Annual Society of Criminology Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA. November 2018.
"Translating Research to Policy: Improving Justice for Women & Girls." - Division on Women & Crime of the American Society of Criminology Congressional Briefing, Capitol Hill. October 2018.
"When the Hand That Feeds You Becomes the Hand That Guides You: Governmental Funding of Local Rape Crisis Centers." XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Toronto, CA. July 2018.
"Dispelling Myths and Improving Practice: Examination of Untested Rape Kits in Cuyahoga County." Ending Violence Against Women International Conference, Chicago, IL. April 2018.
Residencies, Internships and Fellowships
Local, National, and International Media Coverage
- You Never Knew Kellen Winslow Jr.
Sports Illustrated; June 2019
- DNA profiles helping police catch serial rapists
- Arizona Republic; May 2019
- SB 52 Would Improve Sexual Assault Response, Make Communities Safer
Valley Journal (Montana); April 2019
- Brooklyn credit union tackling lingering effects of redlining
Credit Union Journal; April 2019
- FBI and U.S. states zeroing in on historical sex offences
Central Asia Times; April 2019
- Ohio Steps Up Measures to Combat Sexual Violence
Cleveland Scene Magazine; April 2019
original report by Eye on Ohio; picked up by WOSU and WVXU
- Sexual Assault Kit Initiative: What Testing Backlogged Sexual Assault Kits is Teaching Law Enforcement About the Crime
FBI.gov; April 2019
- What is sex trafficking? An explanation
Cincinnati Enquirer (OH); March 2019
- Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force nears indictment in 800th victim’s case: By the numbers
Cleveland Plain Dealer; March 2019
- More than 6,000 Cleveland police reports getting another look
News 5 Cleveland; March 2019
- Cleveland 19 investigates downtown rape of woman
Cleveland 19 News; February 2019
- 11 rapes, 4 states, 1 suspect: The ‘extraordinarily improbable’ defense of Calvin Kelly
USA Today; reprinted by Lansing State Journal (MI), Indianapolis Star (IN), Asbury Park Press (NJ), Pensacola News Journal (FL), Fort Myers News-Press (FL), Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN), Cincinnati Enquirer (OH), Rapids Daily Tribune (WI), Journal News (NY), Burlington Free Press (VT); January 2019
- Thousands of rape kits remain untested across the country
WMBF News - South Carolina; December 2018
- Backlogged Rape Test Kits Produce Several Leads
Associated Press via US News; reprinted in Beaumont Enterprise (TX), Myrtle Beach Sun (SC), Laredo Morning Times (TX), Bradenton Herald (FL), Centre Daily Times (PA), Sun Herald (MS), Beaufort Gazette (SC), Midland Reporter-Telegram (TX); November 2018
- Rape Kit Investigations Vary Statewide
WCPN Sound of Ideas; October 2018
- Artist plans 456 portraits to explore environmental risk of sexual violence in Cleveland
Cleveland Plain Dealer; October 2018
- Outside Cleveland, Ohio rape kit prosecutions in older cases still rare, Plain Dealer survey reveals
Cleveland Plain Dealer; reprinted in Youngstown Vindicator (OH), Cincinnati Enquirer (OH), Canton Repository (OH), The Alliance Review (OH), Newark Advocate (O), Mansfield News Journal (OH), Lancaster Eagle Gazette (OH); October 2018
- Looking backwards can tell us a whole lot about moving forward
Bureau of Justice Assistance; October 2018
- Untraceable: What you need to know about Ohio's DNA collection law
Lancaster Eagle Gazette (OH); reprinted by Newark Advocate (OH), Marion Star (OH), Fremont News-Messenger (OH), Coshocton Tribune (OH), Bucyrus Telegraph Forum (OH), Port Clinton News Herald (OH), Mansfield News Journal (OH), Zanesville Times Recorder (OH); October 2018
- Fact-checking Mike DeWine's attack on Rich Cordray about rape kit testing
PolitiFact; August 2018
- Red-lined' Cleveland neighborhoods are still facing issues decades later, study shows
News 5 Cleveland; July 2018
- How repeat rapists slip by police
Minneapolis Star Tribune; July 2018
- Cleveland Neighborhoods 'Redlined' in the 1930s Are the Same Ones Dealing With Lead, Sexual Assault, Poverty and Poor Internet Issues Today
Cleveland Scene Magazine; July 2018
- Delays, blunders and police neglect in Wisconsin's response to rape kits
Wisconsin Journal Sentinel; June 2018
- The unacceptable cost of delaying rape kit testing
San Francisco Chronicle; May 2018
- Fallen through the cracks:' Overdue DNA swabs link to murders, sexual assaults
Cleveland Plain Dealer; May 2018
- Cleveland sex crimes, special investigative units more understaffed than patrol
Cleveland Plain Dealer; April 2018
- New research from CWRU reveals information previously known about serial rapists to be wrong
News 5 Cleveland; March 2018
- Completed testing of 13,931 rape kits signals progress, unfinished business and investigations remain
Cleveland Plain Dealer; February 2018
- Serial rapists don't necessarily have an MO
The Marion Star; February 2018
- More than 1,200 rape kits sitting idle in Pennsylvania
TRIB Live; February 2018