New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced Thursday a clergy abuse hotline and online complaint form through which victims and anyone with information can provide information – part of the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation into sexual abuse of children within the New York dioceses of the Catholic Church.
Victims and anyone with information about abuse can call the hotline at 1-800-771-7755 or file a complaint online at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse. An investigator will review all allegations; the Attorney General and our law enforcement partners will seek to protect victims’ and witnesses’ identities.
The Attorney General’s Charities Bureau has launched a civil investigation into how the dioceses and other church entities – which are non-profit institutions – reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of extensive sexual abuse of minors.
As announced last month, the Attorney General’s Criminal Division is also seeking to partner with District Attorneys – who are the only entities that currently have the power to convene grand juries to investigate these matters – to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations.
“The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups in the dioceses. Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well – and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve,” said Attorney General Underwood. “I urge all victims and anyone else with information to contact our hotline. And make no mistake: the only way that justice can fully and truly be served is for the legislature to finally pass the Child Victims Act.”
It is important to note that many cases of abuse may not be prosecutable given New York’s statutes of limitations. The Attorney General has repeatedly urged the legislature to pass the Child Victims Act, which would allow all victims to file civil suits until age 50 and seek criminal charges until age 28. Under current law, victims only have until age 23 to file civil cases or seek criminal charges for most types of child sexual abuse; some of the most serious child sex crimes have no time limit on the bringing of criminal charges, but only for conduct that occurred in 2001 or later.
However, the Attorney General encourages any victim of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy to participate in this investigation, even if they believe that their information may be outside the statute of limitations for a court case. All victim information will be helpful to understanding and reforming the institutional approach of the Church, regardless of whether an individual case can be prosecuted.