Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SHATTERING SILENCES by Christopher Johnston


Strategies to Prevent Sexual Assault, Heal Survivors, and Bring Assailants to Justice

by Christopher Johnston

Pub Date: June 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5107-2757-1
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

A timely update on efforts to combat sexual assault in America.

In a narrative bolstered by extensive research involving clinical professionals and law enforcement experts, Ohio-based journalist Johnston investigates how rape cases are processed today after decades of mishandling. Focusing primarily on the Cleveland area, the author spent eight years researching rape and sexual assault, and he presents his findings through the case histories of several survivors. Their stories are indeed unsettling, with many left unresolved for decades and now resurfacing through the advent of DNA analytics. Johnston reports on the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, and he compassionately profiles a group of “healers” comprised of sexual assault nurse examiners charged with the intake and rape-kit follow-through for assault victims. The victim’s stories, however, are the true heart of the book, conveying a palpable sense of suffering. From a law enforcement perspective, Johnston looks at a Cleveland police commander responsible for the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit who acknowledges that this particular work is psychologically and emotionally difficult and “not for everybody.” Even more exacting is the work of an Ohio crime lab where forensic pathologists process rape kits and scrutinize DNA samples, now considered “law enforcement’s greatest weapon” in convicting rapists. The legally irrefutable science of DNA examination, writes the author, is also making it possible for sexual assault cold cases to be reopened and litigated, as with the valiant ordeal of a girl who was raped 20 years ago at the age of 14. In Detroit, Johnston brings to life the court battles of rape victims and the challenges facing prosecutors attempting to exhume a backlog of rape kits for tracking and reanalysis. Though the challenges facing tireless task force detectives, medical staff, and community psychologists may seem insurmountable, the author’s hard-hitting, victim-centered report reveals the great strides being made toward achieving justice through collaborative and tech-innovative investigation.

A hopeful report that is more triumph than trauma in the prosecution of sexual assault cases past and present.