Have you been sexually assaulted in your past and never reported it?
You may think too much time has gone by to do anything about it. But that may not be the case. Especially if the abuse was done to a minor. The statute of limitations varies per state.
I wanted to report my abuser many times over the years. But I had no idea what to do. I called and left messages with the places I found online. I asked for advice from my pastor. No one else really knew what to do. Or they didn’t get back to me. Time went on and I put it aside. Now it’s too late to criminally prosecute my abuser.
I decided to report him anyway. And it took a lot of time to find out the right steps. The energy it took had a lot to do with not knowing what to expect or what to do next. If you are trying to get the courage to take a step it's even harder to investigate. Thinking clearly is difficult when you are also trying to be strong and not get triggered so you can continue your job or just maintain a normal life. When you decide to come forward, you may find it to be emotionally draining and you can’t think through simple logical steps.
I created this blog post for you to help you get all the details in one place. I recommend you share it with someone who can help you walk through the process.
I will get right to the point here … because it’s a lot of information and I don’t want to clutter it up with personal reflections. I will include a brief comment about my experience so you can get an idea to what I thought of each step. So as you read this, please know my heart is with you. And you are going to be okay.
Since I’m in Illinois – I will share some websites and phone numbers I used. However, you can still use this for your location by following the same path.
If you were recently raped or abused – don’t wait to follow these steps. Go to a hospital immediately and let them help you.
* None of this post should be taken as legal advice.
If you are anxious about getting it all done in a day understand that it won’t work that way. There just isn’t any way to get it over with. But it doesn’t have to take a lot of your time either. I found out that this is a process, so you need to be patient.
STEP 1: REPORT TO YOUR STATE’S ATTORNEY GENERAL
This was the first step I took because I saw a news story on how to report clergy abuse. The Illinois Attorney General has set up a hotline for those abused by clergy. It is staffed by trained professionals.
Call the Clergy Abuse Hotline at 888-414-7678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They will refer complaints to the state's attorneys as appropriate. If you leave a message and your contact information they will get back to you. They can give you the contact information for advocates (see step 2).
MY EXPERIENCE: I sent an email and left a voicemail. I heard back from someone within 48 hours. The woman was very sensitive to my story and documented what I shared. She got back to me with who I needed to contact in my area. This helped me not have to research. She provided the phone numbers to call in order to get an advocate in my area, report to the local Dioceses and the order of steps I wrote about above. She’s also followed up and replied to emails quickly. She also let me know how they are moving forward to protect victims.
STEP 2: GET AN ADVOCATE
You don't need to wait to hear back from the state's attorney to do this.
There are organizations that are set up to be your advocate. They can walk you through the whole process. They will recommend next steps, offer insight, can go with you to the police station, court dates or offer counseling. They are bound by law to keep your information confidential so you can feel supported and trust to openly share no matter what comes up along the way.
The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault website is http://www.icasa.org. They recommend calling the 24/7 hotline at your local crisis center. For DuPage, that is the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. Phone number is 630-971-3927.
MY EXPERIENCE: My advocate gave me her work cell so I could call her at any time. She was very sensitive to my questions and made me feel safe.
STEP 3: FILE A POLICE REPORT
You don't need to do step 1 or 2 before you do this. But having an advocate may help you prepare for this step.
You need to file a police report in the city the offense occurred.
They will ask you to write out a statement so they have the facts, dates or any evidence prepared for additional meetings or investigations. They also give you some paperwork to take home which explains your rights and offers some hotline numbers.
They will forward the paperwork to a detective who will reach out to you for further information. Which may require another interview.
MY EXPERIENCE: They were professional. I’d never told anyone such detail before so it was harder than I anticipated but it also felt empowering. I could tell they felt bad for having to ask and I don’t believe they could share how they were feeling about it. That’s not what this is for. It’s to present and document facts. Their reaction or response doesn’t mean anything negative. I went back to do a video interview with a detective a week or so later. They asked more questions but were very compassionate and patient.
STEP 4: REPORT TO DIOCESE
I didn't do this step right away – I waited until the detectives confronted the priest and got back to me. They recommended I do it this way so they could have the opportunity to build their case without the Diocese intervention. They didn't want him to have any sort of heads up about it.
You need to find out the Diocese where the abuse was done in. They will have a hotline for you to call so you can report it. They have guidelines they need to follow in order report to the proper authorities. They are required to report the priest to the States Attorney office.
You will need your case number from the police department. I’m pretty sure you can call and report without a police report but it helps to validate your claim.
The Victim Assistance Coordinator at the Joliet Diocese is: 815-263-6467. From their website:
The Diocese of Joliet Victim Assistance Coordinator is available to help victims/survivors of child sexual abuse by a cleric, employee or volunteer of the Catholic Church. The Victim Assistance Coordinator will report to Bishop Conlon and coordinate efforts of pastoral support and outreach to assist in the healing process. The Victim Assistance Coordinator can also assist in making a report to civil authorities.
MY EXPERIENCE: I wasn't sure what to expect from this call but the lady who answered was very professional. She validated my experience and offered apologies. She took down the information and called me the next day to say they had reported this to the Bishop. I heard from her again over the next two months as other steps were taken. They offered for me to meet with the Bishop if I wanted an apology or had questions. (I declined.) They also offered me counseling services (6 sessions) and recommended certain therapists in my area. I didn't follow through because I found out that all my session notes would be shared with them. I was disturbed that they didn't tell me this upfront. The counselor hid that fact as well … only saying I had to sign some paperwork when I arrived. When someone tipped me off to ask more specifically about this the counselor admitted it. I chose to find my own therapist. I probably don't need to say this … but it's like having the perpetrator having access to your intimate thoughts and feelings. That felt like an additional violation. I didn't receive an email or written apology from the Catholic Church.
GET ORDER OF PROTECTION (Optional)
Depending on your situation they may recommend you get an order of protection. This may be helpful if the offender knows where you live and you are afraid they will reach out to you once they are confronted by the police. (I did not do this step.)
There are two options for protection so the offender can’t reach you in any way. They would not be able to call, text, or go to your home or place of employment. And if they do, they are immediately arrested. From their website:
Order of Protection
If you are thinking about getting an Order of Protection in DuPage County, look at the checklist first to find out if you meet the basic requirements for this kind of case. If you are not sure about some of these questions, call the 24-hour Family Shelter Service hotline at (630) 469-5650 to talk to an advocate, or go online to www.familyshelterservice.org. If you do meet these three basic requirements, then you may be able to get an Order of Protection in DuPage County. To get started, go online to www.illinoisprotectionorder.org.
An Order of Protection only covers these kinds of domestic relationships. If you are not related to the Respondent in any of these ways, then you can´t get an Order of Protection. However, you may be able to get a different kind of civil order. If you were sexually assaulted, call the YWCA at (630) 790-6600. They may be able to help you get a Civil No-Contact Order. For other situations, you may contact an attorney to find out if you can get a Civil Restraining Order. Remember, you may always call the police if you are afraid or need help, even if you do not have an Order of Protection.
CNCO – Civil No-Contact Order.
The Civil No Contact Order is a civil “stay away” order for rape victims who do not have a relationship with the offender. Under a CNCO, the court orders the offender not to have any contact with the victim.
For information on how to obtain a Civil No Contact Order, contact the closest ICASA rape crisis center.
Forms necessary to obtain a Civil No Contact Order are below. These forms apply in every Illinois county except Cook. For copies of forms to obtain a Civil No Contact Order in Cook County, contact the Office of the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk at (312) 325-9467.
I highly recommend you get counseling right away. I didn't do this and I think it would've helped to have someone to talk to through the process. There are counselors and psychologists that are trained in trauma therapy. It will take some time, focus and energy to find someone but feel free to interview them on the phone and ask questions. I found many of them were able to give me about 15-30 minutes. (This wasn't a counseling call but a time to ask about their experience as it related to my situation.)
You may find this a helpful first place to start: Diane Landberg, PHD is a psychologist and international speaker working with trauma survivors, caregivers and clergy around the world. I went to her website and asked for a referral through her contact page. I received a few recommendations to therapists in my area within 24 hours.
NetGrace.org also offers resources to help give a godly response to abuse in a Christian environment.
You may want to reach out to an attorney that works with clergy abuse cases. They can assess your situation and help you understand the qualifying factors of a lawsuit and the next steps in your potential case. I'd recommend Jeff Anderson and Associates.
I can't share my experience but I can say I wish I would've known the steps to take when I was still within the statute of limitations. I hope this blog helps you find the courage to speak up right away.
MY PRAYER FOR YOU
I am so sorry you or someone you love was abused … I can't imagine what you went through. But I do know that the love of God is able to come in and heal every broken place. You are stronger than you think. More powerful than you've been allowed to be in the past. You are not a victim … you are an overcomer! I pray for God's comfort to come upon you right now as you read this.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3
Here are a few blog posts I've written or podcasts that may help you.
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