Rachel Dissell

Rachel Dissell was a reporter for The Plain Dealer from 2002 until 2020. Her investigative pieces have changed laws, policies, hearts and minds.

Reinvestigating Rape, a series with reporter Leila Atassi, led to the testing of nearly 14,000 rape kits and investigations that resulted in indictments in nearly 800 cold cases in Cleveland. Researchers built on the project’s early discoveries to redefine the understanding of serial rape in Ohio and beyond. Toxic Neglect, a series with colleague Brie Zeltner, exposed Cleveland’s poor track record for investigating when children were lead poisoned. The series sparked a communitywide effort to proactively protect children from the toxin, including a grassroots citizen petition drive and the formation of a coalition of more than 300 public, private and philanthropic partners who worked to pass a law that requires all rental homes in the city to be inspected for lead hazards.

In 2019, Case Closed, a series with Andrea Simakis, explored the systemic failures of Cleveland police through the experience of a woman who had to solve her own rape. Dissell was a 2016 Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma Ochberg Fellow and has received training in the neurobiology of trauma and trauma-informed interviewing and storytelling techniques and ethics. Her series, Johanna: Facing Forward, won the 2008 Dart Award, and her story, Case Closed, won the 2020 Dart Award.

Dissell also has trained law enforcement, nurses and advocates and community groups for End Violence Against Women International and the National Center for Victims of Crime. She also has taught emerging journalists at her alma mater, Kent State University.

Recent Posts by Rachel Dissell