A shocking new report shows major gaps in Harris County’s response times to sexual assaults, concluding that survivors aren’t getting the resources they expect or deserve.
What’s even more concerning is that the report shows a lack of resources and empathy for victims.
“Walking the justice system in its current state is like walking nude and exposed down a long hallway paved in thorn bushes,” Marlecia Price said.
Price knows our justice system even more intimately than the leaders surrounding her during a press conference Wednesday.
She said she was sexually assaulted in October 2021, and her case hasn’t gone to trial yet.
“I thought it would be kind of like an episode of ‘Special Victims Unit.’ When you report a crime, you go in, the attorneys run to you and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do,’ and you’re in a courtroom,” she said. “That is the furthest from the truth.”
According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the agency received 1,107 sexual offense calls in 2022, and only 169 of them were investigated.
The sheriff’s office said 77 charges were accepted by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which is about 7%.
According to the DA’s office, out of the 494 sexual assault charges filed from 2022 to August 2023, only 60, or roughly 12%, ended in convictions.
Fifty-three charges in the same time period were dismissed.
Thirty-two of those charges were for insufficient evidence, eight were for missing witnesses, and nine by request of the alleged victim.
“We know we can do better. Solutions exist. We need to get the labs funded. We need to get the evidence outsourced when necessary. We need to get these cases to trial without delay,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “The solution is a math problem. We have backlogged rape kits, we have backlogged investigations. We have backlogged prosecutions. We have backlogged appeals. The answer to backlogs is more people.”
“Sexual assault is one of the most unreported, underreported violent crimes there is,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said. “I’m sad to say, as a police chief, I can see why after hearing that. I want us to do everything that we can do.”
Changing sexual assault statistics will take more than resources- it’ll take creating a new culture.
“In speaking up, we’re helping the next person. We’re making it easier for the next person. It’s like laying bricks, and each person that lays a brick makes it easier for the next person to walk on them if they need to,” Price said. “You were a victim, and now you are a survivor. And that gives you the power that you need to motivate and keep moving and pressing on.”