Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

In the Fall of 2014, The Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education was approached by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO) for the purposes of understanding more about the unsubmitted SAKs being tested, investigated, and prosecuted by the Cuyahoga County SAK Task Force.

Funded by the CCPO, a team of researchers at the Begun Center, headed by Drs. Daniel Flannery and Rachel Lovell, were given access to the SAK case files. The research team coded a random sample of 243 sexual assaults with completed investigations and either resulted in prosecution or were not pursued due to insufficient evidence. From the case files the team coded police and investigative reports, forensic lab reports, and criminal histories and developed an extensive database of codes to assist the CCPO in knowing more about the victims, offenders, serial offenders, and sexual assaults, when in the process the investigations are stalled, and the factors that lead to more successful prosecutions.

The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Pilot Research Project

Process Brief
As of 2015, all 4,845 unsubmitted SAKs from 1993 to 2010 from Cuyahoga County have been submitted to BCI for testing. To assist the Prosecutor’s Office in streamlining their efforts, researchers at the Begun Center mapped each step of the process from Testing to Disposition. Utilizing data provided by CCPO, this brief illustrates how SAKs move through the four main phases of this process—Testing, Investigation, Prosecution, and Disposition. As a SAK proceeds through the process it (potentially) changes from (1) a SAK, (2) an investigation, (3) a prosecution, and (4) a final disposition.

Data & Methodology Brief
This brief provides a description of the data, sampling, methods, and data limitations of the SAK Pilot Research Project. Utilizing data provided by the Prosecutor’s office via an electronic database of documents used for prosecution, the Begun Center research team gleaned information about the investigative process and entered these data into a quantitative database. The Pilot Research Project focuses on unsubmitted SAKs with completed investigations as of August 2015.

Victim’s Brief
This brief provides a description of these victims in terms of their demographics, criminal history prior to and after the sexual assault, relationship to the offender, and degree of perceived cooperation during the initial investigation in the 243 sexual assaults analyzed for the SAK Pilot Research Project.

Serial vs Single Sexual Offenders Brief
This brief provides a comparison of serial offenders and one-time offenders in terms of their demographics, criminal histories prior to and after the assault, relationship to the offender, and modus operandi in the 243 sexual assaults analyzed for the SAK Pilot Research Project. Serial offender status was determined based on the number of CODIS hits or sexual offense arrests in the offender’s criminal history.

Cost Savings and Cost Effectiveness Brief
We conducted an analysis of the cost savings and cost effectiveness of the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Task Force on all unsubmitted SAKs tested as of January 1, 2016. We explored the total tangible and intangible costs to victims associated with unsubmitted SAKs and the total cost of testing and investigated those SAKs. Our analysis estimates the total cost savings of future sexual assaults averted due to the SAK Task Force as of January 1, 2016 is $48.2 million dollars. Conservative estimates suggest the SAK Task Force’s efforts will produce a net savings of $38.7 million dollars to the community and each SAK tested will produce a net savings of $8,893.

What Happened with the Sexual Assaults Reports? Then Vs. Now
This report provides data describing how sexual assault reports from the unsubmitted sexual assault kits that were not previously indicted were initially processed through the system from the Reporting Phase, to the Initial Investigative Phase, and the Prosecution Phase. We then track what is currently happening with these cases as part of the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Pilot Research Project.

Patterns of Sexual Offending Brief

This report describes patterns of sexual offending. The exploratory examination of the typology of offending helps describe different types of sexual assaults by providing context behind how these different types of sexual assaults occur and who the offenders may be. Guided by the scientific literature on sexual assaults and violence against women, we examined data on our sample of 243 Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs) to discern a pattern for four types of sexual assaults: sexual assaults that involve kidnapping, sexual assaults committed by strangers, sexual assaults committed by multiple offenders, and sexual assaults that involve captivity.

In the News

Begun Center selected as evaluators for Department of Justice/Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force
The United States Department of Justice announced that the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and its partners will receive nearly $2 million over the next three years to accelerate the work of bringing rapists to justice, assisting the survivors of those crimes and changing the culture of law enforcement here and throughout the country when it comes to investigating sexual assaults.

As part of this initiative, Case Western Reserve University’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education has been awarded a three-year, $486,426 grant to analyze Ohio’s procedures for alleviating the backlog of Sexual Assault Kits. The CWRU team is using data compiled by the task force to understand what led to the backlog of kits and to provide recommendations, best practices and training to prevent it from happening again. The research team has already started work.

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What Local Research About Rape Kids Could Mean for Stopping Serial Rapists

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The Case of Louis Bello

Plain Dealer
Why an Ohio Supreme Court case involving rape kits is drawing national attention

Christian Science Monitor | Cover Story
CSI Cleveland: How the city is curbing sexual violence

WKSU | Morning Edition
Case is getting $465,000 to analyze Ohio’s procedures for rape-kit backlog