CMPD investigating surge in number of sexual assaults involving children this year

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said they are investigating a surge in the number of sexual assaults involving children this year, and fear these cases are being underreported.

Numbers released on Thursday show CMPD has already received 31 reports of rape involving children this year. That’s a 210% increase from 2020, which had 10 reports.

“I believe this is actually an underreported number of assaults that are occurring,” said Jessica Hall, CMPD detective for the Crimes Against Children unit.

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Hall said because children were isolated during the pandemic last year, it wasn’t until they went back to school that they started to see children report the abuse.

“That’s something that no family, no child should ever have to go through. And here at Pat’s Place, we see over 700 kids a year for abuse. It just speaks to the pervasiveness and how important it is to have these conversations with families and children,” said Shawna Pagano, with Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center.

Pagano works with CMPD’s Crimes Against Children unit. Staff members help facilitate the first and only interview with the child and then help provide resources.

“We provide advocacy reports to caregivers so we can help them navigate the emotions and the criminal justice system. We provide therapy clients or refer them to other therapists in the community that meet their needs,” Pagano said.

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Pagano said a big focus has been prevention through education. She said they’ve been doing more this year to try to teach children the signs and symptoms of abuse.

“One of the things we are also doing is a child abuse prevention curriculum for kids K-5 where schools counselors go into the classroom and teaches kids about abuse, and about how to tell a safe adult if anything happens to this,” Pagano said.

Pagano said more than a handful of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools took part this year, and plan to expand the program to the rest of Mecklenburg County very soon.

For those who have more questions about the signs and symptoms of a child who is being abused, Pat’s Place is holding a webinar on June 16 to answer questions.

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