April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This time is dedicated to finding ways to ensure that young people are in safe environments wherever they are and to provide help and care to those who have suffered abuse.
Previously, I have discussed how the Archdiocese of Washington has long been strongly committed to child safety, which is demonstrated by all of the archdiocese’s many pro-active efforts to protect our precious children and to help those who have been victimized to heal. This includes mandatory child protection education and training for staff, volunteers and children, criminal background checks, assistance for any person who indicates that he or she has been abused, and much more.
To emphasize how gravely serious and vigilant the archdiocese is in protecting children and rooting out perpetrators of abuse, I would like here to highlight our archdiocesan policy and practices that recognize the vital need for swift remedial action whenever there is reason to believe or suspect abuse has occurred. Under this policy, any suspected abuse is required to be reported as soon as possible to the appropriate civil authorities and archdiocesan authorities. When archdiocesan personnel receive allegations of suspected inappropriate contact or conduct, they act swiftly to provide immediate protective measures, as well as work for a speedy and just resolution. This means offering care and support to alleged victims, placing the accused on administrative leave pending final resolution, working with civil authorities, cooperating in any judicial proceedings, and other appropriate action.
Timely response to allegations, and prompt investigation and resolution of any wrongdoing is crucial, but particularly regarding the scourge of child sexual abuse, where prompt adjudication is to the benefit of all concerned. Experience shows that justice delayed is justice denied; thus, the law has long stressed that claims be quickly brought. While some people have suggested that public policy should allow for delay, not only is there is no good reason for victims to not obtain help as soon as possible, the failure to inform the appropriate authorities about suspected abuse places other children at risk of grievous harm themselves because the perpetrator is not removed.
If abuse involving archdiocesan personnel has occurred, whenever and wherever it has occurred, we want to know about it as quickly as possible so that we can take appropriate action. Most importantly, if you have been a victim of child sexual abuse, you are urged to contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection at 301-853-5328 so you may get the assistance you need and so that other children might be protected.
Being most vulnerable, our young people require us to care for them and protect them from harm. Please join all of us in being vigilant in providing a safe environment for all children.