Police in Charlotte, North Carolina, said they observed a 210% increase in sexual assaults involving children during the time period that most schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a news release said Thursday.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said that the Crimes Against Children Unit had observed small changes in cases from year to year, but they were alarmed at the surge in child sexual assault cases that occurred since 2020, the statement said.
Since 2020, detectives noted an increase from 10 sexual assaults involving children to 31 cases reported in 2021. (RELATED: Police Operation In North Carolina Recovers More Than 150 Missing Children, Some Involved In Human Trafficking)
“It is important to understand these cases are not random sex assaults,” the statement said. “Tragically, the vast majority of these cases involve family members or someone known to them.”
During a press briefing, Detective Jessica Hall linked the increase in cases to a possible delay in reporting that can result from children being in situations without access to trusted adults outside of their homes. Throughout 2020 and into 2021, children in hundreds of districts nationwide could only communicate with their teachers and peers virtually, and many schools cancelled school activities that could have given children opportunities to report abuse.
Hall said during the press briefing that she believed the number of assaults that occurred is likely higher, but the incidents are underreported.
“Due to the recent pandemic, COVID-19 removed children from student activities, thus taking them away from schools and places with a trusted adult,” the statement said.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district announced in late March that students in middle and high school would transition to classrooms for four days of instruction, while younger students began returning to schools earlier that month for part-time in-person instruction.
“CMPD hopes to see more cases reported sooner now that children are returning to school and have the resources such as guidance counselors and trusted adults to report such acts,” the statement added.
In the first three weeks of March 2020, the the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, has reported a 10% increase in the number of minors contacting their online hotline. (RELATED: Advocates Of Child Abuse Victims Fear Continued Rise In Abuse Reports Due To Lockdown Orders)
Of those minors that reported abuse and concerns related to coronavirus shutdowns, 67% were related to their perpetrator, and 79% were quarantined with their abuser, Camille Cooper, RAINN’s vice president of public policy told the Daily Caller in April 2020.
Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually, and neglect is the most common form of maltreatment. About four out of five abusers are the victims’ parents, according to the National Children’s Alliance.