MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- The numbers are disturbing. To date there are 208 counts of abuse, and possibly more on the way against a former elementary school teacher.
Detective Sgt. Amy Dyson is the lead investigator in the case for the Iredell County Sheriff Special Victims Unit.
She says seven victims had come forward recently.
“They do seem to feel better now that they told their secret; a lot of them have never told anybody-- not one person until the story came out,” she says.
The case has grown steadily since a former male student reported the incident in October of last year.
“The first victim had been living with it and dealing with it and felt like he just needed to say something,” says Dyson.
The 65-year-old is out on bond, having made another court appearance on the Wednesday morning on the additional 97 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.
The alleged victims were all students at Mount Mourne Elementary School in Mooresville, from the 1970s to the 80's. Officials say the inappropriate touching occurred at various places, including inside the classroom.
“A lot of the parents called and said they trusted, Mr. Patterson-- they trusted him with their children, they would allow their children go to his home, he could come to their baseball games, football games, he also took them to football games," says Dyson.
Many of the victims are said to have come from the same fourth grade class, although none have had contact with each other or talked about the incident until recently.
Dyson has also spoken with many others who have acknowledged the abuse, but are choosing not to get involved for various reasons.
Dyson says, 208 counts against Patterson reflect only the “average” number of incidents they believe have taken place during the school years among 14 victims in all.
"We did two charges per month, because they (victims) said it happened twice a month."
Amy Isley, Director of the Iredell County Chapter of SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) tells NBC Charlotte, it is not surprising victims waited so long before breaking their silence.
"For one thing it was, ‘oh, it wasn't just me,’ and that makes a difference. If you know there are others involved and they have made that known, there is safety in numbers, and there is belief in numbers,” she said.
Isley’s organization educates and counsels children and families of abuse. In her experience, those who commit these crimes against children are generally sociable, connecting easily with children.
“They pick their victims carefully, because they pick people they know are vulnerable and will have difficulty telling others.” she said.
She advises parents to set boundaries with their children and be vigilant on all who come in contact with them. More importantly, parents need to always be there for their children.
“It means being open to listening to your children and not judging them when they tell you things, but teaching them,” she said.
The Special Victims Unit is wrapping up its investigation, but asks victims, should they choose to come forward, to give the Sheriff’s Department at call.
Patterson’s next court appearance is set for April 23.