A hotline set up by the New Jersey attorney general to report sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has been “ringing off the hook” for nearly two weeks, according to the state’s top prosecutor. So many calls are coming in that an automated message is being played for some callers that says they’re unable to take calls due to the amount of activity on the phone line.
“It rang maybe 10 times,” survivor Joe Capozzi said. “It hung up and a message came up saying we’re unable to take your call.”
“We’ve had to put extra resources into taking those calls,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday. “We’re triaging those complaints for follow-up. If there’s something that requires immediate follow-up, hypothetically someone alleging current abuse, that moves to the top of the list.”
Grewal announced on September 6th that his office would be forming a task force led by a veteran sex-crimes prosecutor to investigate any claims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in New Jersey as well as any attempted cover up of misconduct by the church.
Grewal tweeted, “
#Breaking: @GurbirGrewalNJ launches criminal task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by NJ Catholic clergy. We have established a toll-free, 24/7 hotline to report allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy. NJ Clergy Abuse Hotline: 855-363-6548″
We have established a toll-free, 24/7 hotline to report allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy.
NJ Clergy Abuse Hotline: 855-363-6548 pic.twitter.com/Sd2u8lBjcY
— AG Gurbir Grewal (@NewJerseyOAG) September 6, 2018
The action to open the phone lines to abuse survivors came on the heels of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, who identified more than 1,000 victims of abuse at the hands of over 300 priests over the span of 70 years.
Executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, Pat Brannigan, said this month he expects a much smaller number of abuse claims to arise in New Jersey, noting that the church has had an agreement with prosecutors since 2002 to immediately report any current or past abuse claims to civil authorities, according to northjersey.com.
State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who encouraged Grewal to set up the task force and hotline, said his office has also received calls from alleged abuse victims.
“Since the announcement of the attorney general’s creation of a task force and his plans to empanel a grand jury to investigate clergy abuse in the state of New Jersey, many victims have reached out to my office to ask what they can do to help,” Vitale said in a statement.
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