PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In announcing the scathing grand jury report last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro made an appeal to the victims in the shadows.
“If you are listening to this news conference, and you know of sexual abuse being committed by a priest or member of clergy against yourself or anyone else, please call us,” Sharpiro said.
The results have been a surge of calls to Office of the Attorney General Clergy Abuse Hotline, more than 400 calls. According to the press office, “a sizable number [of them] concerning allegations of abuse.”
The office would not comment further on the nature of those calls, but has put extra agents to investigate them, following up on each, and making a determination of how to proceed.
Since the grand jury report’s release, 50 people have called the Diocese of Pittsburgh Clergy Abuse Hotline reporting allegations of abuse.
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While Fr. Nick Vaskov says all the allegations are prior to 1990, and go back as far as the 1940s, each one is being turned over to the district attorney in each respective county, even though the statute of limitations puts them out of the reach of criminal prosecution. The diocese is also offering counseling and other support.
“Anything that can be done to have people respond to victims, to care for them, we want to encourage,” said Fr. Vaskov.
Abuse victim Jim VanSickle believes that it may take time for the victims of more recent abuse to overcome their own personal shame and fear and contact the diocese or authorities.
“So those people in 1991 may not come forward until 2021, if we can’t change the narrative and make them feel comfortable enough to come forward,” VanSickle said.
The number for the state Attorney General’s Hotline is 888-538-8541, and the number for the Diocese of Pittsburgh Clergy Abuse Hotline is 1-888-808-1235.