Fighting child abuse in N.C.

Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina

At least 1 in 7 children across the U.S. experienced child abuse or neglect in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In North Carolina, more than 12,000 new victims of child abuse and neglect were seen in the state’s 55 children’s advocacy centers during 2023. The overwhelming majority of these children were victims of sexual abuse.

At Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina (CACNC) and 55 affiliated centers in communities across North Carolina, work continues every day to protect children from abuse and to support those who have experienced abuse. Deana Joy, executive director of CACNC, believes the work of the centers is grounded in the communities they serve. “It’s everybody’s responsibility to look after and protect our children,” says Joy.

Through the 55 local centers, CACNC provides resources, healing and hope for young victims of physical and sexual abuse, trafficking, neglect, and exposure to drugs and violence. Programs offered at each center are designed with deep knowledge of the harmful effects of trauma on children and their caregivers.

With support from The Duke Endowment, Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina was incorporated in 1997 to provide leadership and support to the growing number of local centers across the state. In each center, trained interviewers, advocates, therapists and medical providers offer safety, counseling, shelter, health care and social supports to children and their caregivers in a comfortable, child-focused setting.

CACNC helps to sustain and strengthen local centers across the state, providing supports and services including statewide advocacy, legal guidance, technical assistance and training to bolster local investigations, evaluations, treatments and prosecutions.

CACNC is an accredited state chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, and is joined in this accreditation in South Carolina by the S.C. Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers (SCNCAC).

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to look after and protect our children.”

Deana Joy, Executive Director, Children’s Advocacy Centers of NC

North Carolina law requires people who suspect child abuse to alert local authorities for investigation and follow-up. CACNC promotes hotlines, digital reporting and other tools that equip community residents to report suspected child abuse. Even as these tools are available, the social stigmas and sense of shame often sadly carried by victims deter children, family members and caregivers from seeking help directly, or reporting suspicions of child abuse or neglect. CACNC and its affiliated centers work hard to push those stigmas aside. Joy is clear that, “The message to children and to families is you’ve been heard, you’ve been seen, and you’ve been believed.”

Thousands of cases of suspected child abuse are reported each year. Each report is evaluated by trained professionals who work with local agencies and law enforcement to investigate reports.

Experts report that child abuse can be broken down into four primary categories: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. With unacceptable levels of all four types of child abuse present in nearly every U.S. community and across demographics, child abuse is often described by experts as the “unseen epidemic.”

Nearly 19,000 children receive support, care and healing through North Carolina’s Child Advocacy Centers each year. To meet the needs of more abuse victims, additional CAC’s are opening across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

Joy has a simple but powerful message to victims of child abuse and neglect and their families across North Carolina and the nation. “We are here. This is not the endless dark night sky. There is a morning that is coming. We just have to get you there,” Joy said with conviction.

Learn more about CACNC.

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