News & Opinion

Pat’s Place Rings Alarm After Record-Breaking Year for Child Abuse

A young girl in a pink hoodie plants a blue and silver pinwheel in the ground next to a row of others. Pat's Place is joining the county in such projects to raise awareness around the issue.
A young girl plants a pinwheel garden to raise awareness during a past Child Abuse Prevention Month ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Mecklenburg County)

In the lead-up to April, designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month since 1983, Charlotte’s only child advocacy center has released some alarming stats from 2022 in an effort to highlight the urgency of their work in the greater Charlotte area.

Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center released its 2022 Impact Report earlier this year, covering Fiscal Year 2022, which states that 17,393 children were reported abused or neglected in Mecklenburg County during that span. 

On March 21, another release from Pat’s Place gave a more specific sense of how the organization is stepping up to address rising numbers of abuse cases locally. According to the release, Pat’s Place staff and volunteers have carried out forensic interviews, advocacy support, medical care and/or counseling for more than 850 children who experienced violence and abuse in 2022, along with nearly 700 caregivers, the highest numbers in Pat’s Place’s 18-year history. 

Broken down further, 50% of those cases were sexual abuse, 15% were witness to domestic violence, 9% were physical abuse, 9% were at risk, 5% were neglect, 2% were exploitation and 10% are unknown.

“We continue to see the negative side effects of social isolation from the pandemic on families, like increased stress, less supervision, less access to support, and digital vulnerabilities that put children at higher risk of abuse and neglect,” says Shawna Pagano, director of education and community engagement with Pat’s Place. 

Almost immediately after the pandemic began, the cases coming into Pat’s Place became more severe.

It’s not just a Charlotte issue. According to the CDC, at least one in seven children in the U.S. have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year, with nearly five children dying every day because of it. The economic burden of child abuse nationally is estimated to be about $592 billion each year.

According to Darkness to Light, a national organization based in South Carolina that works toward ending child abuse, about one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old. 

In more than 90% of cases, sexual abuse is committed by someone a child knows and trusts. It is rarely a stranger and is much more likely to be a family member, teacher, neighbor, coach, clergy member, etc. People often do not realize that older children abuse younger children as well, the release stated. 

Pat’s Place has a number of ways for the community to get involved in pushing back against child abuse during April, including participating in the annual national pinwheel planting campaign that raises awareness for the issue throughout the month. 

A room in Pat's Place where children who have been victims of child abuse receive counseling or recover in other ways.
Pat’s Place was named for Pat Wolfe, a fierce local advocate against child abuse who passed away in 2000. (Photo courtesy of Pat’s Place)

The organization’s 5th annual Everyday Heroes Philanthropy Luncheon is scheduled for April 25. Earlier this week, the organization announced that Erin Merryn will serve as the keynote speaker at the event. 

Merryn is a nationally recognized speaker, advocate, and published author. A survivor of child sexual abuse herself, Merryn was the force behind Erin’s Law, which requires that personal body safety be taught in public schools.

Beyond raising funds and awareness, there are other ways that Pat’s Place encourages folks to get engaged with this issue, including hosting a training, serving on a committee or as an advocate, or organizing a supply drive

The organization is also planning on rolling out a new Young Affiliates program, and though details are scarce, a spokesperson told Queen City Nerve that the program is expected to launch this summer.  

“Pat’s Place will continue to adapt to the changing needs for children and families,” said Pat’s Place CEO Andrew Oliver. “While we’ll continue to focus on prevention to reach more children upstream, we will always remain a trusted refuge and resource for those who have experienced abuse or violence.”

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One Comment

  1. my children are being abused in Charlotte North Carolina but it’s the kind of child abuse that Pat’s place turns a blind eye to. there is no line drawn in any sand designating between a custody dispute and child abuse. at what point is a parent held responsible for violating their children’s constitutional rights to have a relationship with their other parent. and at what level of Disturbing Behavior for a woman to have to get a job all the way across town at a school as a secretary, secretly move her children to that school, secretly put notes in their folders instructing the teachers and staff not to talk to these kids about their dad, and secretly work at the school without letting anyone know that those were her children. why would a mom use a school to do this to her kids. maybe because Mom tried to tell a 15 year old a 13 year old and a 12 year old they can never see or speak to their father or his family ever again. when mom makes it illegal for Dad to talk to his kids. all a dad can do is sit around and wait for his kids to talk to Dad. but kids can’t talk to Dad when they’re being abused by Mom. the real child abuse in America. and it all starts with unfortunately child support

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