CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In Mecklenburg County, several nonprofits and community partners are working to bring their services together to better serve victims of violence and abuse.
Editor's Note: This story discusses domestic violence, which may include descriptions of violent acts. Reader discretion is advised.
“In Charlotte, if you have the courage to escape your abuser… you are asked to travel to as many as nine different locations and you have to tell your story 27 times,” Andrew Oliver, CEO of Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center, said.
What if you had one stop to get all the help you need? That’s the idea behind the nationally recognized family justice center model: Taking a traumatic experience and making it less complicated.
This brings agencies to provide wrap-around services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, and human trafficking all under one roof.
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“We would be able to refer parents down the hall to get their own counseling, their own health care if that's what they need, job support, training, economic support services,” Oliver said.
Safe Alliance, Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage and Pat’s Place are the leading partners involved.
Oliver said this would allow them to expand their work and serve more children.
“We see about 900 cases a year," Oliver said. "I tell people these are the worse cases of abuse against children, child sexual abuse cases, children who have been victims of human trafficking."
It would be called the Umbrella Center.
Charlotte City Council voted unanimously Monday to allocate $5 million from the coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery fund toward the center. The money is contingent on the partners that make up the Umbrella Center raising the remaining $30 million of its budget.
“Along with county money and private sector money it would secure the location on Albemarle Road but would allow money to up fit and the money to begin programming and execution of this center,” Charlotte City Council member Larken Egleston said.
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There are also discussions of also having two satellite offices one in the northern part and in the southern part of Mecklenburg county.
According to the partners’ presentation, in 2020 calls to the sexual assault hotline jumped 20%, while in 2019 nearly 17,718 children were reported abused or neglected and 1,227 elder abuse cases were reported in Mecklenburg County.
North Carolina ranked in the top 10 states with human trafficking cases reported in the country in 2020.
Egleston called the domestic violence issue in the county a public health crisis.
“Children who grow up seeing their mother for instance be the victim of domestic violence are probably more likely to become victims or perpetrators of violence themselves,” Egleston said.
The office is expected to be up and running in 2024. Oliver said there is hope after experiencing violence and streamlining the services will go a long way to help families heal.
“We’re making a difference every single day," Oliver said. "Kids who come here we see them get better. We see them grow up to be happy and be the kids they were supposed to be."
The goal is to break the cycle of violence, one family at a time.