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A shameful injustice

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Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine recently announced the state has completed testing a backlog of nearly 14,000 rape kits.

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Ohio has finally cleared its shocking backlog of nearly 14,000 untested rape kits, hopefully bringing to an end a shameful neglect that left many victims without justice.

The effort to process untested kits began in 2011 when state Attorney General Mike DeWine called on local law enforcement agencies around Ohio to send untested evidence to the state for processing.

The results of tests of the evidence kits have led to hundreds of suspects and convictions around the state, some in the Toledo area. The testing has helped police identify suspects in about 12,000 of the cases, Mr. DeWine said.

In many cases, victims had been waiting years for police to investigate their cases and make arrests.

In announcing that the backlog had finally been cleared, Mr. DeWine emphasized that the rape kits should never have been neglected in the first place.

“These are more than just boxes of evidence,” Mr. DeWine said. “Each one of these kits represents a victim. A victim who suffered unimaginable trauma at the hands of a rapist — 13,931 victims.”

It is disgraceful that Ohio had such a backlog and that it took so long to clear. In the many years that rape kits sat untested in evidence lockers, not only did victims not get the justice they deserved, but many rapes likely occurred that might have otherwise been prevented if attackers had been identified and arrested for previous crimes.

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In the years since the attorney general’s office began working to clear the testing backlog, the General Assembly has passed several bills to address the problem. Police agencies are now required to send rape kits for testing within 30 days of collecting them and Ohio’s statute of limitations for rape charges has been extended from 20 years to 25 years.

These are meaningful reforms to improve the way Ohio law enforcement agencies handle rape cases. It is equally important, however, for investigators to confront the neglectful mindset that led to those 14,000 rape kits sitting untested for years. As Mr. DeWine said, each kit represents a real crime victim and every victim deserves justice.

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