The main reason abuse is not reported immediately is that so often it happens in a secluded place. There are often no witnesses. We cannot overstate the importance of understanding these essential aspects. Silence and secrecy are common. Fear, a sense of betrayal, helplessness, a feeling of entrapment and a feeling of not wanting to cause trouble are all reasons why most victims remain silent. Most often a victim will tell of the abuse years later only because he or she felt too ashamed, too guilty, and somewhat responsible for the abuse at the time it happened.
The first obligation of the Catholic Church with regard to victims is for healing and reconciliation. The Diocese Bismarck continues to reach out to every person who has been a victim of sexual abuse as a minor or a vulnerable adult by anyone in church service, whether that abuse is recent or occurred in the past.
How to file a complaint
If you have suffered abuse, it was not your fault. If you are a victim of sexual abuse by a priest, deacon or individual representing the Catholic Church, there are several things you should do:
- Known or suspected allegations of child abuse must first be reported to the civil authorities. Contact the appropriate law enforcement agency, which can help determine your options for making a criminal complaint.
- Complaints should be reported to the social services agency, Child Protective Services Department, in the county in which the abuse is alleged to have occurred.
- Contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Dale Eberle, Chancellor, Diocese of Bismarck, PO Box 1575, Bismarck, ND 58502-1575, call 701-204-7216 or toll-free 1-877-405-7435. Complaint forms should also be available at your parish. The Victim Assistance Coordinator is available to help victims/survivors make a formal complaint of abuse to the diocese. He is also available to arrange a personal meeting with the bishop or his representative. The diocese provides outreach to the victim and their family which includes counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups and other social services agreed upon by the victim and the diocese.