DA urges victims of sexual abuse by priests to come forward, regardless of when it happened

DA urges victims of sexual abuse by priests to come forward, regardless of when it happened
District Attorney Hillar Moore (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Victims of abuse at the hands of clergy often struggle with reporting what happened to them.

“This is a real personal, difficult decision people will have to make and we respect that, but we need much more information than what we have right now,” said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore. Even after coming forward, victims often have to face tough questions so prosecutors like Moore will know what, if any, legal options they have to press charges.

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“We would have to know what act is alleged to have been performed. Is it a touch, penetration... what is it? When did it occur? We would have to compare that with what the law was at the time for those particular acts,” the DA said.

Moore would only be able to prosecute those cases that happened in East Baton Rouge Parish; cases in other parishes would fall to the DAs in those jurisdictions.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has been urged to open a statewide investigation into clergy abuse, and to make it easier for victims to report abuse.

One group that’s calling for that is the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Victims can call SNAP at 1-877-SNAP-HEALS.

The head of that group spoke about the issue last fall.

“We want and hope and demand that the attorney general institutes an easy way for victims to step forward, whether that’s a hotline or one-click button staffed by professional folks to take their stories," said Tim Lennon, president of the self-help group.

Late Thursday afternoon, Landry said he does not have plans to open any such hotline. As for a statewide probe, Landry says unlike his counterparts in other states who have done so, he does not have the legal authority to launch a statewide investigation of clergy abuse because of the way Louisiana laws are written. But he says he will assist any local authorities in prosecuting such cases.

The DA’s office says regardless of when a sexual assault might have occurred, victims should contact the Sex Crime Division at 225-389-3445.

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