Rachel Dissell

2015

Rachel Dissell has been a reporter for The Plain Dealer since 2002 where she focuses on the impact of violence against women and children and other social justice issues. She has written investigative pieces about Cleveland’s response to sexual assault, teen dating violence, the juvenile justice system and, most recently, lead poisoning. Her work with colleague Leila Atassi spurred statewide changes into how rape kits are tested and has led to the reinvestigation of thousands of rape cases and indictments in 400 previously unsolved rape cases. In addition to numerous state and local awards, Dissell won the 2008 Dart Award for her nine-part series “Johanna: Facing Forward” which chronicled the life of Johanna Orozco, a Cleveland teen who was raped and shot by her ex-boyfriend. The series was the basis of a stage play that opened in Cleveland in May 2015.

In 2011, Dissell was honored with End Violence Against Women International’s first ever Media Excellence Award. Dissell and colleague Leila Atassi also won numerous statewide awards for their series probing the Cleveland police and their response to rape victims in the wake of the serial killings of 11 black women by convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell. The eldest of seven children, Dissell grew up in and around the poverty, drug use and social ills that often are central to the stories she covers. In addition to her journalism work, Dissell is a mentor to children aging out of the foster care system and participates in several therapeutic programs for children who have witnessed violence.

Dissell is an adjunct professor at Kent State University, her alma mater. 

Recent Posts by Rachel Dissell

  • Reinvestigating Rape: Old Evidence, New Answers

    A growing number of communities across the country are wrestling with how to deal with rape kit backlogs. In this in-depth report, Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter and 2008 Dart Award Winner Rachel Dissell answers common questions about rape kit testing, and provides useful links, resources and questions that reporters can pose to authorities following the reopening of thousands of sexual assault cases nationwide. Click here for quick tips, and click here for the Plain Dealer's Reinvestigating Rape project, reported by Dissell and her colleague Leila Atassi.

  • Reinvestigating Rape: Tips

    In this tip sheet, Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter and 2008 Dart Award Winner Rachel Dissell offers advice for reporters on understanding forensic testing, crime laws, and how sexual violence can impact survivors and their communities. For the full report, click here. And click here for the Plain Dealer's Reinvestigating Rape project, reported by Dissell and her her colleague Leila Atassi.

  • View All Posts By Rachel Dissell