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January 12, 2007


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has simplified access to financial support for counseling expenses for adult survivors as well as child victims and their families who have experienced sexual abuse by clergy or employees of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. This is a significant change in procedure for the Archdiocese. In the past the Archdiocese required a release of information signed by the victim allowing the Archdiocese to contact their therapist and to consult their mental health treatment plans and client progress reports, in addition to the use of private insurance. In making this change, the Archdiocese listened to victims' concerns and examined the procedures of the state Crime Victims Compensation program in order to see how a secular organization structures financial support for counseling services. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, said, "We want victims to know they were heard. We are truly sorry for any pain our previous process may have caused."

This new revision provides quick access to assistance in finding appropriate outpatient counseling and financial support including direct payment to the therapist, reimbursement for reasonable transportation and child care expenses and no requirement to utilize private insurance. To access the assistance, victims need only call the Victim Assistance Program (1-888-800-8780) and file a formal report of sexual abuse.

At the time of the filing of the formal report, the Victim Assistance Coordinator has the authority to authorize payment for counseling over the next twelve months. Financial support for counseling is provided for twelve months with visits to a licensed therapist. After the initial twelve month time frame financial support for counseling will be re-authorized for an additional twelve months upon completion of a brief certification from a licensed therapist that the counselling is being provided related to the sexual assault.

Cardinal Rigali said, "This reflects our understanding of the need to be victim-sensitive in structuring access to services. It is our sincere hope that this new process will be more satisfactory for those seeking assistance from the Archdiocese."

This builds upon additional changes the Archdiocese had already made to its Victim Assistance Program. The Archdiocese has also:

- Hired Mary Achilles, who served as the first Victim Advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to advise Cardinal Rigali on issues related to appropriate response and prevention of sexual assault within the Church.
- Hired a full-time Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection. The new Director is Ms. Karen Becker. Ms. Becker's primary focus is making victim assistance services comprehensive, accessible and as user-friendly as possible.
- Increased staffing of the Office of Child and Youth Protection;
- Empowered Victim Assistance Coordinators with authority to approve financial expenditures for emergency situations;
- Launched Public Outreach Campaign consisting of print ads in The Philadelphia Inquirer and ads on KYW NewsRadio featuring Cardinal Rigali speaking directly to adult survivors of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese and offering his assistance;
- Changed reporting requirements. Victims are no longer required to report abuse to a priest about another priest. Now to make a formal report of sexual abuse, victims only need to call the Victim Assistance Program (1-888-800-8780). The Victim Assistance Coordinator takes the formal complaint, over the phone or at a location of comfort for the victim, providing sensitive support and assistance in that process.
- Developed an automated case management system to increase service delivery.

Services provided by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Victim Assistance Program

- Making a Formal Report: Victim Assistance Coordinators provide confidential assistance to victims making a report of sexual abuse to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
- Counseling and Other Therapeutic Interventions: Victim Assistance Coordinators provide assistance in locating, accessing and financially supporting counseling and other emotional support services. This assistance includes financial reimbursement for child care during counselling sessions and transportation expenses.
- Pastoral Support and Counseling Victim Assistance: Coordinators will provide assistance to victims and families who are seeking spiritual guidance. Coordinators also facilitate pastoral meetings with Cardinal Rigali and other clergy as requested.
- Social Services Victim Assistance Coordinators will assist with social services, including addressing financial, vocational, housing and other needs through case management and referral.


Donna M. Farrell
Director of Communications

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