During the past year, more than 11,000 children in North Carolina were known victims of child abuse. More than half were sexually abused.
That’s a tragic and sobering truth.
The magnitude of the child abuse problem in the United States cannot be understated. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many children were isolated in their homes, not allowed to go to school and could only participate in remote learning. For children being abused, it meant that they were trapped in their homes with their abuser. They suffered in silence and in secrecy because signs of abuse go undetected when children are not seen regularly by others outside of the home.
The Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina are here to help victims of child abuse on the path to recovery and overcoming adverse childhood experiences. The 49 CACs across the statehouse multi-disciplinary teams serving 86 counties, however, all 100 counties can access CAC services.
The Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina provide a multi-disciplinary approach to help children in abusive and traumatic situations. CACs are a safe, child-focused and non-threatening environment that meets the immediate and long-term needs of abused children.
When a young victim comes into one of our centers, they tell their story to a nationally trained interviewer. The information gathered is shared with investigative team members. An assessment is then conducted to determine the victim’s medical and mental health needs. A family advocate is assigned to the child and non-offending family members to ensure that proper services are rendered and to provide guidance through the investigative and legal process. All services are provided free of charge to a family for as long as they are needed.
It is astonishing to know in just one year, 11,000 children became victims of abuse in North Carolina. The sad reality is that we are certain there are many more. Abuse is often a secret that children feel they must keep. Therefore, it is critical that adults use their voice to protect children by identifying abuse and reporting it.
Here are some red flags to observe: changes in behavior such as aggression and anger; anxiety or depression; frequent absences from school; reluctance to leave school or church activities, a fear of going home or to certain locations; rebellious or defiant behavior; physical symptoms such as bruises in uncommon places. These warning signs are consistent among girls and boys.
Child abuse is real but there is hope in changing the future for our children. Through effective intervention and therapy, we can break the cycle of abuse. The road to recovery begins with each of us. We need more North Carolinians to be courageous and join us in our efforts to be hope in action.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect in North Carolina, immediately call your local Department of Social Services and your local Sheriff’s office. If you are a witness to child abuse, call 911. If you have questions or to find a Children’s Advocacy Center near you, visit CACNC.org.
Together, as a society, we can shine a light on abuse in North Carolina and help our state’s most vulnerable.
This project is supported by Award N. 2018-V2-GX-0061 Victim Assistance Grant, awarded by the Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime through a Subgrant Award from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Governor’s Crime Commission.