The Florida Office of the Attorney General said its sex abuse hotline for victims to report crimes will stay active after the transition of office. Victims in Southwest Florida have already used their hotline and website to report abuse.
The sex abuse hotline Attorney General Pam Bondi established in October will continue as elected Attorney General Ashley Moody takes office.
WINK News spoke to attorneys who explained the difficulties of handling these types of crimes.
“It could be quite lengthy depending upon the number of people that respond,” said Bob Foley, a former FBI agent and attorney.
Foley has worked several sex abuse cases in his career. He said the active criminal investigation in the Catholic church and other institutions will take time.
“When you do a sweep and you ask for the public’s assistance, what you find from an evidentiary standpoint is the same type of information is repeated over and over again, Foley said.
Foley said those kinds of patterns are easier to prove in court.
State Prosecutor Nick Cox told WINK News they can’t comment on specifics; however, the online hotline remains active with no end date planed. The hotline and website continue to get reports from victims, which includes those form Southwest Florida.
Cox said with transition of a new attorney general in the state, worries that the hotline will end is unfounded.
Foley, who worked with three US presidents during his career, said politics does not usually affect the work employees like Cox.
“You have an elected official who’s running an office, who brings to that office their vision,” Foiley said. “And the career prosecutors, for example in the [attorney general’s] office, generally stay.”
The attorney general’s office encourages victims of sex abuse to report it and help bring abusers to justice. The website is for reporting allegations of past abuse by Catholic priests in Florida. Anyone reporting ongoing abuse should call 911 or the Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline at 1(800) 96-ABUSE and visit www.myfloridalegal.com/contact.nsf/stopabuse to fill out a report.
Foley hopes victims of sex abuse find the courage to reach out.
“If anybody has been victimized by a sexual abuser, this is their time to get their voice heard and participate in the process,” Foley said.