Local diocese already has fund

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is not part of a victim compensation fund being established by seven other Pennsylvania dioceses because it began its own Victim Assistance Program for survivors and victims of sexual abuse nearly two decades ago.

Since 1999, assistance in the form of compensation and counseling has been provided to nearly 300 individuals. The diocese has offered more than $2.8 million for victim counseling, the diocese said in a release.

The diocese said it plans to issue a more complete financial and statistical summary on clergy sexual abuse in the near future.

The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese said its efforts to assist victims and survivors of sexual abuse include:

– An Independent Help Line listed on the diocesan website.

– A Diocesan Review Board whose membership was completely changed in 2017 and now includes members from outside of the Catholic faith.

– A victim assistance coordinator who functions independently of the Diocesan Review Board.

– An Independent Oversight Board that reviews and evaluates all policies and procedures for the diocesan Youth Protection Program. With the exception of one member, who is a survivor of child sexual abuse, all members of the Independent Oversight Board are from outside the diocese.

– A new Youth Protection Office with a full-time director overseeing youth protection awareness training and mandated reporting training efforts supervised by the Independent Oversight Board.

– Reporting allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement and cooperating with authorities including any investigations.

– Cooperating with social service agencies throughout the eight counties of the diocese and on the state level with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

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