Monday, 17 September 2018

New Jersey Catholic Abuse Hotline Swamped

New Jersey Atorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal
"We're not going to protect those individuals who perpetrated these crimes any more."
New Jersey Priest Abuse Hotline Gets So Many Calls That People Can’t Get Through | David G. McAfee.

In a measure of the scale of the problem, the hotline established in New Jersey for reporting cases of Catholic priests abusing children and vulnerable adults was so overwhelmed with calls in the first few hours that people found it difficult to get through. Extra staff were brought in to cope.

According to this report, calls to the toll-free hotline number (855) 363-6548, are now being answered promptly.

The hotline was established by the office of Attorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal, who has set up a taskforce to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the state of New Jersey, following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which revealed abuse by predatory paedophile priests and routine cover-up on a massive scale in every diocese in the state.

Spokesperson for the New Jersey Criminal Justice Department, Peter Aseltine, acknowledged the problem and explained that some calls were reporting multiple instances of abuse.


In an interview with NPR, Attorney General Grewal said the volume of calls showed the need for similar hotlines across the country:

So I'm not going to get into specifics of allegations that have been related to us. I will simply say that the hotline went live yesterday afternoon, and we've had to add additional staff to take all the volume of calls that have been coming in. It is remarkable. And it just underscores the need to have hotlines like the one we have here in New Jersey and other parts of the country because I am certain that this abuse, given the pattern and practices that the Pennsylvania report identified, was not limited to the Northeast. And I encourage other attorneys general across the country to take a deep look at similar conduct in their areas of responsibility.

Copyright © 2018 NPR

He also said that one of the byproducts of the investigation is that it is revealing abuses involving other religious organisations, not just the Catholic Church:

I think one of the unfortunate byproducts, at least bringing this issue within the Catholic Church to light, is that we are getting individuals reaching out to us relating abuse in other religious organizations. And so I think when we have a discussion like this, where we are bringing to light abuse, and we're holding people accountable, it's giving other victims confidence to come forward to report abuse along the lines of what's been detailed in the Pennsylvania report. And I think it somehow draws away the stigma or the shame - that the victims were not at fault, that it was these individuals in positions of power that were at fault. And we're not going to protect those individuals who perpetrated these crimes any more. We're going to hold them accountable.

Copyright © 2018 NPR

Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, told NJ.com:

I've been working on this issue for 20 years or more, and have met dozens and dozens of survivors. Some have never talked about it before. I'm not surprised they want to let law enforcement know what happened to them.

Based on his experience with talking to victims, he expected the calls to be long and emotional with victims having a hard time coping with reliving the abuse, because "it doesn't go away".

Phillipsburg attorney Greg Gianforcaro, also told NJ.com that he wasn't surprised at the volume of the calls. He has represented many victims of church abuse over 30 years and said many of the people he has represented have already contacted the hotline. He predicted the the findings of the New Jersey grand jury will expose even more abuses then the Pennsylvania report exposed.

Mark Crawford, the state director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told NJ.com:

I suspect they are getting many calls from victims throughout the country who once lived here as a youngster and experienced clergy sexual abuse at that time. I know this as I myself have received many calls - far more than the regular volume of survivors reaching out. Some in their 70's who stated they had never spoken to someone, anyone of their abuse before now.

Similar investigations have now been announced in Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and New York. For the Catholic Church in the USA, Pandora's box is now wide open.


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