With one horrific rape story dominating the news cycle, it's easy to forget how many rapes go, well, forgotten. An initiative to go back and examine a pile of 5,000 untested rape kits in Cuyahoga County, Ohio has already resulted in over 250 convictions and is shedding light on the behavior of rapists. One of the most startling findings from these examinations is that serial rapists are actually far more common than had previously been assumed.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have revealed some of the conclusions they have drawn from the initiative in a series of posts on their institute's website. Summarized by Jezebel: "The most alarming of these suggests that serial rapists are far more common than we might have assumed—of the 243 kits studied, 51 percent were linked to serial offenders, 'who generally had more extensive and violent criminal histories than one-time sexual offenders.' Among the serial offenders identified, 26 percent had previously been arrested for sexual assault and 60 percent were subsequently arrested for a sexual assault unrelated to the one being tested."
Also observed: The patterns of serial rapists differed greatly from one-time offenders in that they often were more violent and involved threats, weaponry, and kidnapping.
“Our findings suggest it is very likely that a sexual offender has either previously sexually assaulted or will offend again in the future,” said Rachel Lovell, a senior research associate at the Begun Center, in a statement. “Investigating each sexual assault as possibly perpetrated by a serial offender has the potential to reduce the number of sexual assaults if investigations focus more on the offender than on single incidents.”
This particular initiative was funded by the Justice Department, who gave nearly $500,000 to investigate data from the terrifyingly large amount of untested rape kits. Meanwhile, thousands of rape kits across the country remain untested and unexamined. Similarly, many feminists question the efficacy of rape kits in general, which have the potential of re-traumatizing patients due to their invasiveness.
“The new processes we hope will emerge from our effort will better honor victims," said Lovell.