Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI)

Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit box

The Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School at Case Western Reserve University is partnering with the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force on an action research project to examine untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) in Cuyahoga County.  The Task Force is currently following up via investigation and prosecution on the DNA testing of nearly 5,000 previously untested kits from 1993 through 2009. View an overview of the project.

Research Team: Rachel Lovell (Principal Investigator), Maggie McGuireJoanna KlingensteinLaura T. Overman

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Publications and Media



Luminais, Misty, Cyleste Collins, and Rachel E. Lovell. (Forthcoming.) Speaking the Previously Unspeakable: How the Codification of Spousal Rape into Law Affects How Intimate Partner Sexual Assaults are Reported in Conceptualizing Sexual Violence in Marriage: Research and Policy by Torres, M. Gabriela and Kersti Yllö.

Lovell, Rachel, Wenxuan Huang, Laura Overman, Daniel J. Flannery, and Joanna Klingenstein. (2020). Offending Histories and Typologies of Suspected Sexual Offenders Identified via Untested Sexual Assault Kits. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 47(4):470-486. DOI: 10.1177/0093854819896385

Lovell, Rachel, Liuhong Yang, and Joanna Klingenstein. (2019). Testing Sexual Assault Kits Saves Money and Prevents Sexual Assaults. Special Issue: Translating Research to Policy: Improving Justice for Women and Girls, Translational Criminology, Winter.

Lovell, R., Collins, C., McGuire, M., Overman, L., Luminais, M., and Flannery, D. (2019). Understanding Intimate Partner Sexual Assaults: Findings from Sexual Assault Kits. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, & Trauma. 28(1):2-7. DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2018.1494234.

Lovell, R., Luminais, M., Flannery, D.J., Bell, R., Kyker, B. (2018). Describing the process and quantifying the outcomes of the Cuyahoga County sexual assault kit initiative. Journal of Criminal Justice (57), pp 106-115.

Lovell, R., Flannery, D., & Luminais, M. (2018).  Lessons learned:  Serial sex offenders identified from backlogged sexual assault kits (SAKs).  In Vazsonyi, A., Flannery, D., & DeLisi, M. (Eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Violent Behavior and Aggression (2nd ed.).  New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Lovell, R., Singer, Mendel, Flannery, D., and Luminais, M. (2018, March 29). Testing Unsubmitted Rape Kits Saves Money. End the Backlog Blog.

Clark, D. 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).

In the Media

The Rape Kit’s Secret History. New York Times; June 2020.

Lasting Impact of Cleveland's 'Redlined' Neighborhoods. Spectrum News 1; June 2020.

‘Serves no purpose in the function of the law:’ Prosecutors, researchers come out against rape statute of limitations. Ohio Capital Journal; February 2020. Reprinted by The Patch.

Police didn't believe her. How distrust of victims allowed NJ serial killer to strike again. Bergen Record (NJ); February 2020.

Study of untested rape kits shows alleged offenders' subsequent crimes cost county $500m. News 5 Cleveland; January 2020.

Undetected' rape suspects were prolific, linked to many types of crimes, CWRU study shows. Cleveland Plain Dealer; January 2020.

How the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office boosts its rape stats without solving cases. Tampa Bay Times (FL); January 2020.

DNA Testing and Sexual Assault. WOSU; November 2019.

Unbelievable: The forgotten rape data. BBC More or Less; November 2019.

$360K grant helps use data to tackle Cleveland-area crime. WKYC; October 2019. Reprinted by Bellefontaine Examiner, Baltimore Sun, WHIO (Dayton).

Violent Offender Data To Be Studied In Cuyahoga County. The Patch; October 2019.

Akron's Cold Case Sexual Assault Unit Receives Nearly $2 Million to Expand Efforts. 89.7 WKSU; October 2019.

Sexual Assault Kit Task Force to use genealogical searches to track down ‘John Doe’ rapists. Cleveland Plain Dealer; October 2019.

Case Closed, Part 5: I Got a Question. Cleveland Plain Dealer; September 2019.

Akron detectives get $2 million more to investigate unsolved rape cases. Akron Beacon Journal; September 2019.

Akron police’s cold-case sexual assault unit receives additional $1.9 million grant. Cleveland Plain Dealer; September 2019.

The Women Behind Controversial At-Home Rape Kits Speak Out. One Zero (; September 2019.

What Netflix’s Unbelievable Gets Right About Rape Kits. Refinery29; September 2019.

Lyft announces safety changes amid sexual assault and rape allegations. USA Today; September 2019. Reprinted by Indianapolis Star, The News Star (Louisiana), Cincinnati Enquirer, Salinas Californian, Newark Advocate, The Tennessean, New York Journal News, Detroit Free Press.

An epidemic of disbelief. The Atlantic; July 2019.

Jeffrey Epstein's Victims Allegedly Recruited More Girls For Him. That's Not Uncommon - Or Their Fault.. VICE; July 2019.

You Never Knew Kellen Winslow, Jr. Sports Illustrated; June 2019.

DNA profiles helping police catch serial rapists. Arizona Republic; May 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.

Sexual Assault Kit Initiative: What Testing Backlogged Sexual Assault Kits is Teaching Law Enforcement About the Crime. front page; April 2019.

How Is Ohio Changing Its Response To Sexual Violence?. WOSU; April 2019. Reprinted by WVXU, Eye on Ohio.

11 rapes, 4 states, 1 suspect: The ‘extraordinarily improbable’ defense of Calvin Kelly. Lansing State Journal (MI), January 2019. Reprinted by USA Today and a number of local newspapers nationwide including the 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), and Burlington Free Press (VT).

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; November 2018. Reprinted by a number of local newspapers nationwide including the Beaumont Enterprise (TX), Myrtle Beach Sun (SC), Laredo Morning Times (TX), Bradenton Herald (FL), Centre Daily Times (PA), Sun Herald (MS), Beaufort Gazette (SC), and Midland Reporter-Telegram (TX).

‘Yes means yes’: How Ohio universities teach students about consent. Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 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, October 2018. Reprinted by a number of local Ohio newspapers including the Youngstown Vindicator, Cincinnati Enquirer, Canton Repository, Alliance Review, Newark Advocate, Mansfield News Journal, and Lancaster Eagle Gazette.

Redlining's Legacy: Crime and poverty higher in Cleveland neighborhoods that faced lending restrictions decades ago. CWRU Think Magazine, Fall 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, October 2018. Reprinted by a number of local Ohio newspapers including the Newark Advocate, Marion Star, Fremont News-Messenger, Coshocton Tribune, Bucyrus Telegraph Forum, Port Clinton News Herald, Mansfield News Journal, and Zanesville Times Recorder.

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.

PBSO’s $1 million rape kit test: 994 examined, no arrests. Palm Beach Post, 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. TRIBLive, February 2018.



Lovell, R., Luminais, M., Flannery, D.J., Overman, L., Huang, D., Walker, T., Clark, D.R. (2017). Offending patterns for serial sex offenders identified via the DNA testing of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits. Journal of Criminal Justice, 52, 68-78. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2017.08.002

Lovell, R., & Flannery, D. (2016, November). Testing of backlogged rape evidence leads to hundreds of convictions. The Conversation.

In the Media

Untested Rape Kits Hid 817 Serial Predators in Detroit, Tens of Thousands More Concealed in Backlog Across U.S. Newsweek; December 2017.

Serial Predators: The Connection Between Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. End the Backlog Blog; October 2017.

What might we learn from the Ohio Rape Kit Survey project?: Progress Report.  Cleveland Plain Dealer; September 2017.

Backlog Of Untested Rape Kits On The Agenda When Lawmakers Return To State Capitol. Capital Public Radio; August 2017.

Tracking Ohio’s Rape Kits. Ideastream; August 2017.

Help find out what’s happened with 13,931 Ohio rape kits sent for testing. Cleveland Plain Dealer; July 2017.

Despite backlog of rape kits, California lawmakers aren’t requiring they be tested or tallied. Daily News; July 2017.

DNA from thousands of Cuyahoga County felony arrests never taken, not in CODIS crime-solving database. Cleveland Plain Dealer; June 2017.

Mariska Hargitay testifies combating sexual assault. C-SPAN; June 2017.

Processing rape kits saves heartache and money, Cuyahoga prosecutors tell congressional task force. Cleveland Plain Dealer; June 2017.

Lawmakers set to pass rape kit retention bill, but not mandatory testing. The Baltimore Sun; April 2017.

A Plea for Justice: Cuyahoga County accused rapists spend, on average, just 5.3 years behind bars. News 5 Cleveland; February 2017.

Rape Kit Research Update. Ideastream; February 2017.

Missed opportunities’ provide lessons for better rape investigations and prosecutions. Cleveland Plain Dealer; February 2017.

She was a crack fiend’ excuse less accepted as rape investigations and prosecutions improve. Cleveland Plain Dealer; February 2017.

No testing, no pattern. Serial rapist connected to seven assaults in Dallas. End the Backlog; January 2017.

Even after backlogged rape kits tested, convictions are rare. CBS News; December 21, 2016

A flawed, inconsistent police response to sexual assault in Maryland. Baltimore Sun; December 3, 2016

Why Testing Rape Kits Would Save Us Millions In Fight To Catch Serial Rapists. Elite Daily; November 29, 2016

Testing of backlogged rape evidence leads to hundreds of convictions. The Conversation; November 13, 2016

Stopping Rapists: Uncovering Clues from Tested Kits. Think Magazine; November 1, 2016

Cuyahoga Co. rape task force gets huge boost from Department of Justice. News 5 Cleveland; September 30, 2016

Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, Case Western researchers get $3 million for rape kit work, to collect ‘owed’ DNA. Cleveland Plain Dealer; September 30, 2016

It’s Official: Testing Rape Kits Prevents Assault And Saves Everybody Millions. Forbes; September 14, 2016

Congress Just Unanimously Passed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. Broadly/Vice; September 8, 2016

The U.S. Is One Step Closer to a Federal Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights;>

Testing Rape Kit Backlogs Saves Millions Of Dollars. Vocativ; September 7, 2016

This Group Is Sending a Rape Kit to Every U.S. Governor. New York Magazine/The Cut; August 11, 2016

The Disturbing Truth: Rape Kit Study Paints New Picture of Sex Offenders. Sputnik News; August 6, 2016

Sound of Ideas: Rape Kit Testing & Research. Ideastream; June 30, 2016

The cost of testing rape kits: Experts say it’s saved us $38.7 million so far. Cleveland Plain Dealer; June 29, 2016

Cuyahoga County Leads the Nation in Its Rape Kit Response With 500th Indicted Man. Cleveland Plain Dealer; June 29, 2016

Case To Analyze Ohio’s Procedures For Rape-Kit Backlog. WKSU; June 28, 2016

5 misconceptions about rape. Chicago Tribune; June 13, 2016

Five Myths about Rape. Washington Post; June 10, 2016

Researchers Just Revealed a Startling Truth about Sexual Assault. ATTN; June 10, 2016

Serial Rapists Are More Common Than We Knew And Testing Rape Kits Is Only Part Of The Answer to Reducing Sexual Assault. Bustle; June 7, 2016

Case Western: Testing Backlogged Rape Kits Leads to 250 Convictions. News 5 Cleveland; June 7, 2016

What Testing 5,000 Backlogged Rape Kits Just Told Us About Rapists. Refinery29; June 7, 2016

The Disturbing Thing Researchers Found When They Finally Looked at 5,000 Untested Rape Kits. Teen Vogue; June 7, 2016

Serial Rapists ‘Far More Common’ Than Thought. Newser; June 7, 2016

Serial Rapists are Far More Common Than Thought, Analysis of 5,000 ‘Forgotten and Backlogged’ Rape Kits in Ohio Reveals. Daily Mail; June 7, 2016

Analysis of 5,000 Forgotten Rape Kits Reveals Unexpectedly High Number of Serial Rapists. Independent; June 7, 2016

It’s Very Likely that Brock Turner Will Commit Another Sexual Assault. Women’s Health; June 7, 2016

Testing of Backlogged Rape Kits Yields New Insights into Rapists. Science Daily; June 6, 2016

Report: Testing Old ‘Rape Kits’ Led to New Convictions, Reveals New Data about Sex Predators. UPI; June 6, 2016

Analysis of Untested Rape Kits Reveals Serial Rapists are ‘Far More Common’ Than We Thought. Jezebel; June 6, 2016

A Great Reason to Test Old Rape Kits: Preventing Future Rapes. New York Magazine; June 6, 2016

Rape Kit Data Yield Major Implications for Sexual Assault Investigations. EurekaAlert!; June 6, 2016

Rape kit data yield major implications for sexual assault investigations.; June 6, 2016

Analysis of Untested Rape Kits Reveals Serial Rapists are ‘Far More Common’ Than We Thought. Jezebel; June 6, 2016

Serial sex assault and what might be learned from the case of Louis Bello. Cleveland Plain Dealer; March 15, 2016

What local research about rape kits could mean for stopping serial rapists. Cleveland Plain Dealer; March 11, 2016

This New Bill Could Make A World Of Difference To Sexual Assault Survivors. Self; February 24, 2016

CSI Cleveland: How the City Is Curbing Sexual Assault. The Christian Science Monitor; February 21, 2016

Why an Ohio Supreme Court case involving rape kits is drawing national attention. Cleveland Plain Dealer; February 1, 2016