CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has confirmed a string of sexual assaults cases, with all of the victims being Hispanic.
Editor's Note: This story discusses sexual assault. While no acts are explicitly detailed, reader discretion is advised.
Kelvin Rene Mejia Ortiz is being charged in two sex assaults and three attempted kidnappings across Mecklenburg County.
A former Mecklenburg County public health employee Daniel Pitti-Casazola is also accused of assaulting at least seven Latina women.
Camino Health said there are many barriers that increases the chances for this group of women to be easily targeted.
"They learn how to keep things private for the sake of maintaining the home or the family," Melanie Rivera, with a mental health counselor with Camino Health, said.
Rivera said more than half of the Hispanic women who sit in her chair are victims of sexual assault.
"You do hear a lot of that it’s a very common thread and a lot of the stories stems from their childhood," Rivera said.
She said the lack of education and communication are two of the biggest factors that keep victims silenced.
"There is definitely a lot of resources in Charlotte, but not in their native tongue," Rivera said.
She said translators are good to help, but they create a disruption in the process when dealing with a delicate situation.
Rivera said other factors like immigration status, poverty, and trust issues also keep many victims silenced.
"They need to trust police and trust organizations like ours that are here to help them," she said.
As they continue working and teaching women healthy ways to communicate, she said they're also encouraging women to resolve conflicts by speaking out.
She said there is power in sharing your story -- you never know which page holds the secret someone else is searching for.
"It’s a process you have to take one day at a time," Rivera said.