Authorities announce $250K allocated to help sexual abuse victims

By Maria Miller
March 17, 2016

[with video]

EBENSBURG -- Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was back in Cambria County Wednesday alongside county and state leaders to help announce thousands of dollars in funding to help victims of sexual abuse.

A total of $250,000 is being put aside to help sexual abuse victims, specifically in the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and on Wednesday elected leaders called on those victims to reach out.

"You are not alone," said Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. "If you're a victim and you have yet to come forward, we want to make sure that you have the support system in place in order to get the care that you need."

"The silence is over," Kane said. "We will no longer tolerate it here in PA."

Leaders say the goal is to get the victims help whether they think they need it or not. Authorities say many victims have been dealing with this for decades, some of them their entire lives. Experts say seeing the headlines and stories on 6 News every day, can trigger painful memories. They say now is the time to call and with new money, more services will be available.

"Living here every day, you can't imagine the impact this has had," said Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan. "People want to talk about this."

In the weeks since the findings of decades of sexual abuse cover-up in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese were announced, Callihan says she is stopped everywhere she goes by victims who want to tell their stories.

"Adults have broken down and cried to me, so the time is now," she said. "We need to change as a community. We need to demand more of our clergy and our diocese and we need to make changes together with everyone at the table moving forward."

Authorities say for decades hundreds, possibly thousands, of victims across the region, have kept their silence. But now a new hotline set up to help victims begin the healing process has been flooded with calls.

"We want all victims in this region and really all across the commonwealth to recognize that the support system is out there you are not alone," Shapiro said.

But with more people coming forward comes the need for extra counseling, technology, support and time. And that costs money. That's why on Wednesday they announced $250,000 has been allocated to specifically help victims of abuse in the diocese. Shapiro says the PCCD took an informal poll of victim services organizations to see how much money is needed, at this time, for victims.

"Our role today is to talk about those victims, to make sure those victims have the support and services that they need," Shapiro said.

The money announced on Wednesday is not the only source of funding available for victims of abuse. There is another $70 million in funds from the Victims of Crimes Act, also known as VOCA, says Shapiro. He also says millions of dollars is available from the Endowment Fund set up in the aftermath of the Penn State settlement imposed by the NCAA due to the Jerry Sandusky case.

Speaking directly to those affected, Kane pleaded on Wednesday that now is the time to come forward.

"The silence is over. We will no longer tolerate it here in PA (Pennsylvania) and we hope that you feel that," she said. "We hope that our presence here today shows you that and we hope that you come forward and find the justice that you so desperately deserve."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.