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US: Victim Expert Tells Bishops to Seek Input from Survivors

Dr. Heather T. Banis, Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Dr. Heather T. Banis, Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, on November 14, 2018, told the US bishops gathered for their fall general assembly, that it is important to seek input from victim-survivors and those who work with them.

“We honor the experience of victim-survivors by learning from them but it should not be their burden to teach us,” Dr. Banis said.  “Victim-survivors often feel as if they live in the shadows – listening brings them into the light.”

She explained that abuse by clergy is a “betrayal trauma”, the effects of which are compounded by secrecy, denial, and cover-up. This has to be turned around so the Church is “victim-centric.” And it requires treating each victim as an individual

“Each person will need something different, and each will teach you something you need to understand,” Dr. Banis said. “Flexibility and openness to what the victim-survivor needs are crucial. Review both minor and adult allegations at the review board. Liaison with law enforcement and child protective services.”

She also affirmed the need to apply standards and expectations to bishops. Make it clear that abuse and its coverup will not be tolerated.

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