NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A hotline created to document reports of clergy sex abuse in New Jersey is receiving so many calls that some can’t even get through. The round-the-clock call center opened last week as part of a new investigation by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
Fred Marigliano says it took him more than 50 years to speak out about being abused by his priest when he was 11-years-old.
“All I wanted to do was not be raped again,” he told CBS2. “Sometimes I still have nightmares.”
His sobering story was told to a crowd that included Cardinal Joseph Tobin at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Friday. On Saturday, he called it in to Grewal’s office via the hotline that’s been slammed virtually nonstop with calls from other survivors.
“It rang maybe 10 times,” survivor Joe Capozzi said. “It hung up and a message came up saying we’re unable to take your call.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report last month which alleged there’s more than 1,000 victims of sexual abuse by more than 300 Roman Catholic priests in the state over the past seven decades. Soon after, Grewal created the hotline to identify potential victims in New Jersey. He wouldn’t discuss the exact number of calls coming in, but he did confirm the volume is so high it’s forced him to assign additional staff.
Attorney Greg Gianforcaro says he’s interacted with at least 300 victims in New Jersey, and he thinks the state’s total number will most likely surpass Pennsylvania’s.
“In 1958, New Jersey passed the charitable immunity legislation, that basically immunized this kind of abuse by religious clerics,” Gianforcaro said on Friday. “I think under these circumstances I believe that New Jersey was a safe haven for pedophile priests.”
Survivors say the state’s statute of limitations has given them another reason to call.
“We want you to go back and do away with the statute of limitations so these people… these people that raped us and raped our kids can pay the price,” Marigliano said.
Cardinal Tobin says he supports eliminating the statute of limitations.
“I think a blanket question like that is hard sometimes, because you have to ask to what do statute of limitations do that we’ve kept them around for so long? But I do believe there’s something unique about this crime in that people often don’t realize what happened to them until they are adults,” Newark’s Archbishop said. “Demand the truth, because Jesus said the truth will set us free.”
Grewal says a state task force will use the calls to present evidence to a state grand jury.
“I kept my secret for 20 years, and it ate me up inside,” Capozzi said. “It was slowly killing me, and now being able to call up the hotline, leave your name, leave your information and let go of that secret because then you can start healing.”
New York’s Attorney General Barbara Underwood has also launched an investigation into all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state. Underwood’s office also announced a hotline — 1-800-771-7755 — for individuals to call to report allegations of clergy abuse, as well as a confidential online complaint form that can be found at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse.