WASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney’s office for D.C. is launching a new hotline for survivors to report child sexual abuse by clergy for potential criminal investigation and prosecution, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu announced Monday.
The initiative comes after a recent report revealed shocking levels of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The report sparked protests for worldwide reform within the church and for clergy members to resign.
With the new D.C. hotline, survivors, as well as those with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy, can report incidents that took place in a house of worship, school, or other locations in the District.
Becky Ianni, the D.C. leader and treasurer for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she sees the hotline as an important step to help survivors and further investigate the church. She herself survived sexual abuse as a child by a priest in Alexandria, Virginia.
“I didn’t tell anyone until the age of 48,” Ianni said. “So it’s really hard for survivors to come forward. But when someone reaches out to them — like the US 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.'”
Those wishing to report can call the Clergy Abuse Reporting Line at 202-252-7008 or send an email to USADC.ReportClergyAbuse@usdoj.gov. Further information is also available on the victim witness assistance website here.
A team of criminal investigators, prosecutors, and victim advocates from the Superior Court Division will then review reports and determine if criminal charges can be brought or victim services provided.
Victim advocates, as part of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, will offer support and guidance to survivors who wish to report.
“Not only can you report what you know and what you’ve experienced, but you can find support as well,” Ianni said. “And I think that’s an important element in what they’re doing and what they’ve announced today.”
The U.S. attorney’s office said in a release that, depending on the nature of the report, it may be referred to law enforcement or the Office of the Attorney General for D.C.
WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.