Portugal: A group of experts on sexual abuse in the church reveals more than 200 cases | world news
By BARRY HATTON, Associated Press
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A lay committee investigating historic child sexual abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church said Thursday that in its first month of work, it received allegations from 214 people.
The allegations come from people born between 1933 and 2006 and speak of psychological torment kept secret for decades, the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Church said.
“This suffering is associated with feelings of shame, fear, guilt and self-exclusion, reinforcing the idea of lives where the feeling of ‘standing out’ was always present,” the committee said. in a press release.
Portuguese church officials said two years ago that authorities had only investigated a dozen sexual abuse allegations involving Portuguese priests since 2001. More than half of those cases have been dropped because that church investigators decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute them.
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The six-person committee, which includes psychiatrists, a former Supreme Court justice and a social worker, promises anonymity to anyone who comes forward. It officially began its work on January 1.
The committee, which will report to the Portuguese Episcopal Conference at the end of the year, says its task is to study child sexual abuse, not to launch official investigations.
Multiple allegations suggest a strong possibility that other children were victimized by the same abuser, the statement said.
Witness statements were received online, with alleged victims filling out a form on the committee’s website, or by telephone or in face-to-face interviews.
Allegations have come from across the country, the committee said, as well as from Portuguese now living in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland, where there are large communities of Portuguese immigrants.
Since most of the statements were received online, the committee is stepping up its efforts to reach people in less developed parts of the country who may not be familiar with using technology.
He enlists the help of charities, civic associations and parish councils, among others, to help spread the word.
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