PA--Hotline gets many calls re Altoona abuse; Victims respond

For immediate release: Thursday, March 3, 2016

Statement by Philadelphia SNAP leader Karen Polesir (

We are thrilled that a hotline for reporting abuse and cover ups by Altoona clerics is flooded with calls. We hope this will continue because each call potentially leads to more wrongdoers being exposed or punished and more kids being protected.

We firmly believe that across Pennsylvania, hundreds of men, women and teens who’ve been assaulted by Catholic clerics continue to suffer in silence, shame, hopelessness and self-blame. So every call represents a troubled person heading towards help and potentially exposing more priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians and other church staff who have committed or concealed heinous crimes.

Calling the AG’s hotline is the best course of action for anyone with any knowledge or suspicions about child sex crimes or cover ups. Some, however may be reluctant to break their silence. If so, we beg them to tell SOMEONE what they know or believe or have heard – a police officer, a prosecutor, a therapist, a loved one or a support group like ours. It’s crucial that no one stays quiet while this investigation proceeds.

We implore current and former Catholic employees to find the courage to call. Please stop being part of the problem. Please start being part of the solution.

It’s impossible to know what seemingly insignificant piece of information could prove crucial to law enforcement. It’s also liberating for many when they do summon the strength to pick up the phone and disclose information or suspicions about abuse.

At the same time, we urge citizens to NOT call church officials.  Often, when Catholic staff learn of abuse, they re-double their efforts to keep a lid on it. Sometimes, they intimidate victims, threaten whistleblowers, discredit witnesses, destroy evidence, and even help predators flee overseas. We beg police, prosecutors, parents, and parishioners and of course victims to NOT give Catholic officials more chances to hide the truth and protect their colleagues.

Every single person who calls the AG’s hotline should be applauded for his or her courage.

Finally, there’s a clear, simple lesson here for other secular authorities: If victims are given hope and urged to step forward, often they will. We’ve seen this pattern time again: when police, prosecutors or other governmental officials begin to take action against those who commit or conceal child sex crimes, and when they make public appeals to victims, often victims respond. So we hope more secular authorities will launch similar investigations and use their bully pulpits to prod those with information about these devastating crimes to speak up.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,, Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell,, Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747,

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