SEBRING - Authorities don't know whether there are any other victims of a man convicted this week of having unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
But they indicate they wouldn't be surprised if that's the case.
It's not uncommon for a sexual offender to have multiple victims and for it to be the case that many of them don't contact law enforcement, said Lt. Greg Pearlman of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.
"Sometimes it takes one to come forward," he said, before the other victims report the crime.
Winford C. Pointer, 128 Wilson Way N.E., Lake Placid, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges of four counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, two counts of using a computer to solicit a child and two counts of obscene communications/traveling to meet a minor.
Chris Carr, an investigator with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, said that Pointer met the 16-year-old victim in the case through Facebook and acquaintances. Pointer told her he was 24, Carr said, adding that even if he had been that age he still would have been breaking the law.
Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton in a press release encouraged any other victims to come forward.
Evidence in the case, she said in the press release, indicates other young victims may have been threatened so they wouldn't report Pointer.
"With Mr. Pointer headed to prison for a very long time, if there are other victims out there, we'd certainly like to have them come forward so their cases can also be prosecuted and we can help with support services to overcome any victimization."
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, based in Washington, D.C., estimates on its website that 60 percent of such crimes go unreported.
Scott Berkowitz, president of RAIN, said in a telephone interview that reasons for that include that victims consider it a private matter or they want to put it behind them and not relive it in court, he said.
Others feel that "the odds of getting justice are too low to want to go through the process," he said.
In recent years, the percentage of victims reporting the crime increased by 10 percent because prosecution has improved, he said. DNA and better training of prosecution has led to more convictions, Berkowitz said.
"It's still a very challenging process to arrest and to prosecute successfully" the perpetrator, he said.
Other victims don't come forward because they don't want their family to know and they feel embarrassed about it if co-workers find out, he said.
But, he said, despite that, RAIN encourages all victims to come forward.
"The only way we're going to eliminate this crime is to take more rapists off the street, as rapists are often serial offenders," he said.
Carr said he doesn't know how many victims fail to come forward, but he learned during training that fear of retaliation and not wanting their family to know are major reasons for not coming forward.
In the case involving Pointer, those who want to report a crime can call Carr at (863) 402-7354 or they can do so anonymously by calling Highlands County Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-TIPS.