Hastert Case Shows Need for Illinois Sex-abuse Hotline, Survivors Group Says

By Meredith Rodriguez
Chicago Tribune
June 2, 2015

Former "Speaker of the House" Denny Hastert at the "Luxembourg USA: A Migration Story" exhibit on Friday in Downtown Aurora. (Terence Guider-Shaw / The Beacon-News)

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims presented a letter to Lisa Madigan's office Monday asking the attorney general to set up a hotline for adults who have suffered sex abuse as children.

The group also sent letters Monday to the Illinois Association of School Administrators and several Boy Scout councils in the Chicago area, asking them to set up hotlines.

"We want victims to find information and resources and learn that they are not alone," the group wrote in the letter to Madigan.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, referred to the recent federal charges against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. According to his indictment, the former Illinois congressman agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance who once lived in Yorkville, where Hastert taught English and coached wrestling from 1965 to 1981. The payments were made to the acquaintance to "compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against individual A," according to the indictment.

Details of the misconduct aren't spelled out in Hastert court documents, but a day after the news broke, law enforcement sources said he was paying off a former male student to conceal sexual abuse from decades earlier and that a second person raised similar allegations that corroborated the account of the initial victim.

The indictment against Hastert can be "a watershed moment" for those molested by teachers, coaches and scout leaders, SNAP President Barbara Blaine said Monday at a news conference outside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

"We believe this unfortunate moment actually creates an opportunity for Illinois," Blaine said.

Blaine also advocated for prosecutors to disclose more details about the alleged wrongdoing, saying that may deter others from committing or concealing child sex crimes. Often, details are kept anonymous to protect the identity of victims, Blaine said.

"The bottom line is those are legal, but we believe it is against the public interest," Blaine said.

This is the first time SNAP has spoken out on a case that does not involve a priest, but the issues are similar whether an abuser is a priest, teacher or scout leader, Blaine said.

"We are a support group for survivors run by survivors," Blaine said. "We want to help everybody we can. Mostly we want to protect other kids."

The attorney general's office has a hotline for crime victims at 1-800-228-3368 for voice and 1-877-398-1130 for text. The division that runs the hotline often refers callers to the state's 27 rape crisis centers, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer Luce wrote in an email.

"We do receive calls to that hotline from people who have survived crimes of sexual assault seeking assistance," Bauer Luce said. "Those calls can be made anonymously."









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