U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu on Monday announced a new hotline for reporting sexual abuse by clergy members. The reported cases will be acted upon for possible prosecution of clergy members found involved in the abuse.
The hotline initiative comes at a time when the Catholic Church is rocked by the report of widespread sexual abuse of children, causing furor worldwide. There were calls for reform and resignations of priests.
The new hotline will allow survivors or anyone who knows of any sexual abuse case by clergy members inside or outside churches to report it for further action by the U.S. attorney’s office for D.C.
D.C. leader Becky Ianni, who was herself sexually abused by a priest when she was a child in Alexandria, Virginia, said the hotline will help the survivors of sexual abuse, and also push for further investigation into reported cases by the church.
“I didn’t tell anyone until the age of 48. So it’s really hard for survivors to come forward. But when someone reaches out to them — like the U.S. attorney’s office is doing in Washington, D.C. — that kind of opens a window for victims to say ‘maybe now I can speak out; maybe it’ll be safe; now someone’s going to listen’,” said Ianni, who’s also the treasurer for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
A Superior Court Division, which comprises of criminal investigators, prosecutors and victim advocates, will be reviewing reported cases and accordingly decide about criminal charges or if any victim services can be provided. Advocates from Victim Witness Assistance Unit will also guide survivors who report sexual abuse on the hotline.
“Not only can you report what you know and what you’ve experienced, but you can find support as well. And I think that’s an important element in what they’re doing and what they’ve announced today,” said Ianni.
The hotline Clergy Abuse Reporting Line can be called for reporting any sexual abuse case at 202-252-7008 or by email to USADC.ReportClergyAbuse@usdoj.gov. More information is available on the victim witness assistance website.