By: Caitlin Forst, Interim Director of Communications
The Diocese of Arlington believes deeply in the dignity of each person and opposes all forms of abuse. Nearly a decade ago, following the clergy abuse crisis, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde made the prevention of child sexual abuse and the healing of those harmed a priority. He not only established diocesan-wide prevention programs and services for victims of clergy sexual abuse, as required under the United States bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, but he opened an office to assist all victims of sexual abuse, regardless of by whom they were abused.
More than 330 individuals who have suffered abuse by family, friends, clergy and others have received help from the Office of Victim Assistance, currently staffed by two social workers, since 2003.
Since 2004, hundreds have participated in special Masses and events through
- 30 Healing Masses celebrated by Bishop Loverde, attended by 2250 people in total.
- 20 prayer services held by Fr. Mealey, Vicar General
- 20 Support Group evenings of fellowship and prayer, hosted by Bishop Loverde and/or Fr. Mealey
- 2 yearly retreats
As a recent study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice reported, prevention efforts such as education are essential to reducing instances of child sexual abuse. The Office of Child Protection and Safety for the Diocese of Arlington provides mandatory education programs to raise awareness among adults and children.
More than 30,000 employees and volunteers have received “Protecting God’s Children” training in the diocese and now serve as watchful sentinels, helping ensure that children’s interactions with adults are appropriate and safe and that any suspected abuse is reported to the authorities. In addition, every employee and all volunteers working with children must complete criminal background checks. These checks include state and national criminal record searches and a search of the Central Registry of the Virginia Department of Social Services.
The Diocese of Arlington also provides training in “Formation in Christian Chastity,” as part of all religious education programs and Catholic schools’ curricula. The program encourages children to confide in parents and other trusted adults if someone tries to act inappropriately with them. This is critical in helping to keep children safe and in ensuring that those who do harm children are reported to the authorities immediately. Since the program began in 2005, more than 65,000 children have received training
An age-appropriate program for teenagers called “You Matter,” presented to our high schools, youth groups and religious education programs, is intended to promote awareness of the nature of sexual abuse, reporting procedures, information on creating safe environments, possible signs of abuse, possible indicators of abusers, stories from victims/survivors, and information on the need for counseling for healing of abuse survivors.
Bishop Loverde, together with clergy, employees and volunteers, continues to strive to protect God’s children. Please continue to join with us in these efforts and to pray for all of those who work for the safety of all.