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France: Commission investigating church child abuse scandals says the number of victims may be over 10,000

A hotline was set up in June 2019 for victims and witnesses to report abuses. It is reported to have received 6,500 calls in the first 17 months of its operation.

An independent investigation carried out to examine cases of rampant child abuse across Churches in France has made some shocking estimates regarding the number of victims. Jean-Marc Sauve, the head of the independent enquiry commission set up by the Catholic church, said on Tuesday that there might have been at least 10,000 victims of church child abuse since 1950.

Possible figure of victims is at least 10,000: Head of the probe commission

Sauve reportedly said that the number of victims estimated in June last year which was 3,000 was certainly an underestimate. “It’s possible that the figure is at least 10,000”, Sauve was quoted as saying at a press conference where he shared an update about the commission’s work. A hotline was set up in June 2019 for victims and witnesses to report abuses. It is reported to have received 6,500 calls in the first 17 months of its operation. Sauve told the reporters that the question before the commission was what percentage of victims have come forward and spoken about the abuse.

“The big question for us is how many victims came forward? Is it 25 per cent? 10 per cent? 5 per cent or less?”, he said.

The Commission was set up in 2018 following recurring child abuse scandals

In November 2018, the Bishops’ Conference of France had agreed to set up the independent commission following massive and recurring child abuse scandals. The decision attracted mixed reactions from the victims’ associations some of which praised the attempt to encourage the survivors to speak out while others doubted the willingness and ability of French prosecutors to press charges. The 20 members of the commission come from different walks of life including legal, academic and medical backgrounds. The commission was scheduled to deliver its final report by the end of 2020 but a new deadline of September 2021 has been set now.

In May 2019, Pop Francis had passed a legal degree obliging those who knew about sexual abuse in Catholic church to report about the same to their superiors. Under the decree, every diocese around the world was required to create a system for reporting sexual abuse by clerics by June 2020.

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