Sheriff's Office Partners with Multiple Agencies to Go After Predators and Help the Victims of Sexual Assault, LIVINGSTON, April 1, 2022 - There are 95 stars currently on display outside the Polk County Sheriff’s Office representing the 95 children who were forensically interviewed pertaining to claims of child abuse or sexual assault and attended by Polk County Sheriff’s Office. "When speaking about child abuse and sexual assault, the word, victim is used, we want to represent these children as stars, with a bright future". Said Sheriff Lyons. "Abuse is hard to talk about, it’s hard to tell someone, it’s even harder to recover from. These children are survivors, they are stars".
Sheriff Lyons wants to acknowledge that Polk County Sheriff’s Office is happy to partner with Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Polk County DA Victim Assistance, Childrenz Haven, and SAAFE House in recognizing April as Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. "We would also like to express our thanks to Francisco and Ashley Lopez of Lopez Pressure Wash for their contribution to our display", Lyons said.
Sheriff Lyons acquired a Criminal Justice Grant, as well as an Office of the Governor Grant in October that allowed for the hiring of two new positions. Special Victim Liaison, Christi Allen, concentrates on the abuse and sexual assault of children while the Crime Victim Liaison, Chawna Reuter focuses on crime victims' rights and adult abuse and sexual assault during the investigative process. Ms. Allen was responsible for attending all forensic interviews for our office, as well as courtesies for area law enforcement agencies. Allen and Reuter assists victims by directing them to the various services available to them in the immediate area at no cost to the families.
PCSO Lieutenant Craig Finegan and Det. Lee Rogers investigate crimes against persons, which include child abuse, sexual assault, homicide, domestic violence and homicide. They investigated 41 sex crimes involving children and 70 child victim cases ranging from neglect and assault to homicide in 2021.
Texas Department of Health and Protective Services, Child Protective Services (CPS) becomes involved with children and families when they are referred by the DFPS Investigations Division, which investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect. Krystella May, CPS Investigations Supervisor, advised that their office had investigated 591 case with 104 confirmed victims. 1196 children were interviewed by their department and 49 children were removed from offending parents for the year 2021.
Polk County DA Victim Assistance is tasked with insuring that Victims are aware of their rights and kept informed of the progress of their case through the judicial process. Megan Knighton, Victim Assistance Coordinator assists with Protection Order applications and attends forensic interviews of children who have made claims of physical or sexual abuse. Knighton is responsible for insuring that crime victims know and understand their rights were participating in the prosecutorial process. In 2021, 62 cases involving children were indicted by the Polk County Criminal District Attorney’s Office and 76 Protection Orders were filed.
Childrenz Haven provides evidence-based, trauma-informed services when there is an allegation of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, child fatality, or child witness to a violent crime. We collaborate with law enforcement, CPS, and the prosecutors by coordinating joint investigations and facilitating case reviews so that no child’s case falls through the cracks. Crystal Finegan, Executive Director with her staff conduct forensic interviews as well as offering free counseling for those children.
SAAFE House is committed to empowering family violence and sexual assault victims by providing individualized, immediate, no cost and confidential services. Rene Murphy, Executive Client Services Director supplied national statistics stating that every 68 seconds someone in the US is sexually assaulted. On average there are 464,000 victims each year. One out of every six women in the U.S. have been the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her lifetime. Males ages 18-24 who are college students are approximately 5 times more likely than non-students of the same age to be victims of sexual assault and every nine minutes a child is a victim of sexual assault. Approximately 63,000 children a year will be victims of sexual assault.
“We will continue to work with the community in order to educate the public about child abuse and sexual assault to make Polk County a safer place for our children. They are our future; we are tasked with the responsibility of protecting them.” Said Sheriff Lyons.
“We can only work towards our goals, but with the support and education of our community we can make those goals a reality,” said Lyons.
If you would like to request a presentation for your club, POA, or workplace, please contact Christi Allen or Chawna Reuter @ 936-327-6810.