The first response that a survivor of childhood sexual abuse receives when revealing what happened to him or her is crucial for opening the door toward healing.
“I believe you.”
“It is not your fault.”
“I am sorry that happened to you.”
Statistics tell us one out of every four girls, and one out of every six boys, are assaulted before they turn 18. If those statistics are correct, everywhere you turn you will encounter people who have been abused and are feeling the pain of that abuse. Reaching out to all victims of abuse/survivors is critical in bringing hope and the love of Christ to them.
The Catholic community is committed to supporting healing and recovery among sexual abuse survivors and their families, and offers lifelong resources to cover the costs of counseling, addiction treatment and other services of the survivors’ choice. Every diocese has a survivor/victims services professional on staff to listen, learn about their trauma, and encourage survivors in their own time to get support. This is not ordered by the court; it is the Church’s initiative to address the harm, pain and anger caused by child sexual abuse. Assistance is available no matter how long ago the crime was committed.
The Church has repeatedly acknowledged abuse that happened and its role in the ongoing suffering experienced by survivors and their loved ones. While recognizing and respecting that every individual must take his or her own personal journey toward healing, the Church is committed to offering assistance. We will provide continuous resources for survivors and their families so they can have access counseling, addiction treatment, medications and other necessary support services.
In addition to support for survivors, the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania adhere to strict safe environment practices, including training for employees, clergy and volunteers in identifying and responding to signs of abuse. Our dioceses enforce a zero-tolerance policy for clergy, employees and volunteers accused of abuse. The dioceses have already reported these allegations to local district attorneys and have now also shared them with the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. Credible allegations of misconduct result in permanent removal from ministry, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. Every adult who interacts with children — including clergy, employees and volunteers — is subject to thorough background checks.
The emotional outcry for the Church to make things right for past victims is understandable and fuels the Catholic Church’s support for survivors and enduring commitment to end child abuse through education, awareness and constant vigilance.