Sgt. John Klafka from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Adult Crimes Unit reported an increase in sexual assault crimes during an April 5 presentation at Shield Bearer Counseling Center in Cy-Fair.
Although these crimes increased by 19% from 2020-21 locally, he said an estimated 91% of sexual assaults go unreported statewide. Texas on average reported more than 1,000 rape offenses each month throughout 2020.
Klafka said many people who experience sexual assault do not report the incident out of fear of the aggressor or because of how long the investigation could take. Victims then may end up rehashing the trauma without getting the aggressor convicted, he said.
Should the victim report the incident, Klafka explained a deputy will complete a report, which is referred to investigators, and an investigation is conducted before facts are presented to the district attorney’s office.
When it comes to domestic violence, Klafka said even though many couples and families can appear happy, many are experiencing violence. This applies to sexual assaults as well, as Klafka reported that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone who is known to the victim.
Klafka also shared human trafficking victim indicators those in proximity to suspected victims can watch for:
- habitual runaways/missing/unexplained absences from school;
- large, unexplainable amounts of money and cellphones;
- branding or tattoos;
- scars or bruises that are unexplained or reluctantly explained;
- avoids eye contact and physical touch;
- drug or alcohol use/abuse;
- inappropriate or provocative photos;
- checks into hotel rooms with older persons;
- refers to boyfriend/girlfriend as “daddy/mommy”;
- malnourished appearance; and
- lack of official ID.
April is Sexual Assualt Awareness Month, and Klafka emphasized the importance of spreading awareness for sexual assaults and human trafficking since Harris County sees high levels of both. He also explained the county works with Shield Bearer and other organizations to assist sexual assault and human trafficking victims.
Find countywide resources here.