Testing backlogged sexual assault kits prevents future rapes and saves victims millions

Testing backlogged sexual assault kits prevents future rapes and saves victims millions

September 7, 2016

Testing backlogged sexual assault
kits leads to the imprisonment of more rapists—preventing future sexual
assaults and saving would-be victims and communities millions of
dollars, according to a new analysis by Case Western Reserve University.

With access
granted by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Case Western
Reserve’s researchers are studying data from Northeast Ohio’s nearly
5,000 unsubmitted rape kits, an effort that so far has resulted in the
indictment of 520 defendants and 211 convictions.

The findings show that serial sexual offenders are more common than
previously thought. The researchers conservatively estimate that 25
percent of rapists go on to commit another reported sexual assault,
crimes that could be prevented if each rape kit is tested in a timely
manner and leads to a conviction.

Sexual assaults prevented by the testing of Cuyahoga County’s kits will save would-be $48.3 million, researchers estimate.

While testing each rape kits costs $950, a sexual assault costs
victims, on average, more than $200,000 in pain and suffering, earnings
lost to injury, medical expenditures and decreased quality of life.

“The cost of testing rape kits pales in comparison to the costs to
victims and society,” said Rachel Lovell, a senior research associate at
the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case
Western Reserve. “If testing rape kits doesn’t appeal to one’s better
nature of providing justice for victims and a safer community for all,
we can also show that these efforts can improve the bottom line.”

When estimated costs of testing and investigating Cuyahoga County’s
kits—$9.6 million—are compared to savings to would-be victims,
researchers project a net savings of $38.7 million to the Northeast Ohio
community, in addition to an estimated 1,290 indictments and 947
convictions.

Cuyahoga County’s testing of backlogged kits—among the largest
projects of its kind in the United States—can become a national model,
researchers say, showing law enforcement across the country the benefits
of launching similar efforts to test backlogged rape kits.

“With a limited supply of public dollars and competition between
worthy causes, we want to inform decision-makers by showing the
tremendous return on investment,” said Mendel Singer, an associate
professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and co-author
of the research.

Of Cuyahoga County’s indictments from these cases that are not dismissed, researchers estimate a conviction rate of 90 percent.

Overall, costs to the more than 4,000 victims associated with the
untested kits is $885.8 million, a figure based on previously published
research on the cost of sexual assault to victims.

“Besides the victim’s pain and torment, criminals impose significant
financial costs on both their victim and the wider community,” said
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. “CWRU’s research proves
that following the evidence in these rape kits takes these dangerous
criminals off the streets. That not only prevents them from raping new
victims, it saves taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”

In 2015, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office partnered with
researchers from the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and
Education at Case Western Reserve’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel
School of Applied Social Sciences, and gave them unprecedented access to
case files from committed between 1993 and 2010.

Case Western Reserve’s research—available in a series of briefs
online—is based on coding police and investigative reports, DNA lab
reports, and criminal histories of victims and defendants..

Known as the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, the
project is partially funded by a $2 million grant from the National
Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, created by the Department of Justice in
2013 to use evidence from backlogged sexual assault kits to reform how
law enforcement handles future cases.

Since 2011, the Ohio Attorney General’s office has agreed to pay for
the testing of unsubmitted kits from around the state. Ohio law now
mandates that all kits be tested. An estimated 4,000 kits remain
untested in Cuyahoga County, most from before 1993. Ohio has a 20-year
statute of limitations on sexual assault prosecutions.

The university’s research effort, known as the Cuyahoga County Sexual
Assault Kit Pilot Research Project, is co-led by Lovell and Daniel J.
Flannery, the Dr. Semi J. and Ruth W. Begun Professor at the Case
Western Reserve’s Mandel School and director of the Begun Center.

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