A mother in the US state of North Carolina has been charged with child abuse for allegedly telling her 12-year-old son to “beat the gay away” from his older brother.

Police were called to an incident in Whiteville on Saturday 24 August and found several people yelling and screaming.

Mary Gowans admitted to police of beating her 15-year-old son and said she was trying to prevent him from visiting a gay neighbour, who the mother said had allegedly been molesting the teenager.

The 15-year-old told police his mother forced him to strip to his underwear, before his 12-year-old brother was told to beat him with a belt.

Gowans denies the allegations and said her older son hit the 12-year-old first.

In an interview with WECT, Gowans claimed she would never harm her children.

Asked if the 15-year-old, who suffered bruising to his back was gay, she replied: “In some way, I…yes. I think that he was molested – but like I said I reported it to the [police] – nothing was done.”

Gowans then admitted it would annoy her to have a gay son. “It bothers me because he his a young age, he’s not all there, he does not know right from wrong.”

Prosecutors with the Columbus County District Attorney’s Office will evaluate if Gowans should be charged with a hate crime.

Social services are also investigating.