After testing nearly 5,000 rape kits in Ohio that had previously gone un
tested, we've learned yet another unsettling truth: Serial rapists are more common than we think
. It's a problem perpetuated by the fact that we tend to look at rapes as single instances, instead of more closely examining the rapist and their behavior and history. And it is long
past time something was done about it.
The initiative to test these thousands of kits, the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Pilot Research Project carried out by
Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), has made for more than 250 convictions; furthermore, out of the 243 kits that were studied, 51 percent of them were connected to serial offenders
, according to several press releases from CWRU. What's more, there's a noticeable pattern of behavior in these repeat rapists: They have more violent histories; more than a quarter of them had been arrested for sexual assault
before; and well over half of them were arrested for sexual assault later on. Additionally, serial offenders more often commit acts of kidnapping, verbal and physical threats, and the use or threat of use of weapons.
The takeaway here is a scary one: These numbers indicate that a sexual offender has likely committed an assault in the past, or likely will in the future.
The silver lining (or whatever you'd want to call it in this case) is that looking at an individual sexual assault as committed by a possible repeat offender could potentially help us to prevent sexual assaults in the future.
But there are other hurdles to jump that make it difficult to take full advantage of rape kit results
. For starters, rape kits themselves are time-consuming and invasive to administer. It can take as long as four hours to administer one and includes swabbing, internal examinations, and photographs of the injuries, among other procedures. It is understandably a traumatizing experience
for someone who has already been through rape or assault.
Essentially, we have thousands upon thousands of victims going through the upsetting experience of completing a rape kit, only for it to be completely forgotten about.
The first answer, of course, is that not a single rape kit should go untested. Additionally, based on the earlier results that sexual offenders are likely repeat offenders, we should consider their broader history, as the one-time offenders seem to be outnumbered.