Ohio Takes Lead in Testing Backlog of Sexual Assault Kits

At a press conference held Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine shared a status update on the testing of backlogged sexual assault kits in the state of Ohio as part of the SAK Testing Initiative created by his office in 2011.

A total of 13,931 sexual assault kits, some dating back more than a decade were turned in by 294 police departments throughout the state of Ohio. As of Nov. 1, 2016, DeWine reported that 11,888 of those kits – representing 85 percent of the total, have now been tested.

The Cleveland Police Department was one of 40 agencies in Cuyahoga County that submitted their backlogged sexual assault kits as part of the SAK Testing Initiative; Cleveland alone submitted 4,418 kits with Cuyahoga County submitting 4,996 kits in total – a full one-third of all the sexual assault kits turned into the state. As of November 1, all of the kits submitted by Cuyahoga County have been tested.

Update January 5, 2017: Ohio Reaches 12,000 Sexual Assault Kits Tested

Of the nearly 12,000 sexual assault kits that have been tested, 4,298 of them matched DNA already in CODIS (Combined Index DNA System), with 2,186 – or 51 percent of those matches – coming from Cuyahoga County.

DeWine expressed his gratitude for the cooperation of the 294 out of 900 police departments in the state for taking part in the SAK Testing Initiative, in which the attorney general’s office paid for all the testing of the kits, something that local law enforcement agencies complained they had been unable to afford to do.

Addressing the SAK Testing Initiative that he himself spearheaded beginning in 2011 when he first realized the backlog of sexual assault kits existed, DeWine said:

“I launched this initiative for the survivors of sexual assault who went through the traumatic process of a rape kit examination, but were still waiting for answers. Now, hundreds of people, including many serial rapists, are being held accountable for their brutal attacks.”

DeWine gathered prosecutors, public defenders and others involved in the criminal justice system to determine how Ohio should move forward on the backlog of sexual assault kits. Through that group and with input from the attorney general’s office, protocols were established seeking to test all of the existing backlog. Additional forensic scientists were hired to ensure the testing would be done within a reasonable time frame, and additional funding was proved to the AG’s office for that purpose.

The Ohio state legislature added to the effort, extending the existing statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault in which DNA evidence was found, identifying the perpetrator.

Featured Image Credit: [email protected]

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