New victim assistance coordinator to help abuse victims

Thu, Nov 17th 2016 09:00 am
Jacqueline Joy
Jacqueline Joy

Most Reverend Richard J. Malone, Bishop of Buffalo, has appointed Jacqueline Joy to pick up where Mary Ann Deibel-Braun left off as victim assistance coordinator to offer immediate care to any person who claims to have been the victim of sexual abuse by priests, deacons or other diocesan personnel.

"My career is all about helping people," said Joy, who has spent nearly 20 years in social work. She spent 10 years working in nursing homes and then began providing mental health counseling with Catholic Charities in 2008, counseling victims of all types of abuse. "My background has led me to be able to do this job. I have extra training and expertise in trauma work."

In 1990, the Diocese of Buffalo adopted a comprehensive program to help prevent sexual abuse and to promote healing. Since 2003, in accordance with the directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth," the diocese has outlined on its website the continued mandatory training for all diocesan employees and volunteers who regularly interact with young people. In addition to being trained on how to identify signs of sexual abuse, all are required to report suspected abuse to the Chancery, and are encouraged to report to the district attorney's office as well.

For the past seven years, Deibel-Braun has served as diocesan victim assistance coordinator. "In general, people who came forward expressed gratitude to the Diocese especially how, at all levels, from the bishop to myself, we empathized with their pain," said Deibel-Braun. "This respect is critical for traumatic healing. The people whom I met while serving as victim assistance coordinator stay with me in my prayers and in my heart."

It's a job that Deibel-Braun has done discreetly, with little fanfare, but much satisfaction over nearly a decade. "It was an honor to serve despite the challenges we addressed together. We walked along side people as they heal.  People in the community of the Church are not aware that help is available and that honest expression of their pain provides healing for them and for our Church."

Jacqueline Joy accepted the position in September. She is a licensed clinical social worker with a master's degree in social work from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is the first to respond when someone calls the anonymous hotline for individuals who wish to file a sexual abuse complaint.

"That initial contact is extremely important," said Joy. "It's important for them to develop a trust and a rapport and feel safe with whom they're talking to on the phone or meeting with, and social workers have extra skills in those areas."

The victim assistance coordinator is also a member of the diocesan Review Board, which functions as a confidential consultant body to the bishop in his assessment of allegations and in evaluating suitability for ministry or employment of the accused. "I'm here to assist the bishop through my participation on the Review Board," said Joy. "He wants a compassionate and active response."

Joy prefers to take what she calls a "trauma-informed approach.""We want to make them feel safe, have trust in us and trust in the Church again that they'll receive the help that they need. You start where they are. I can't decide for them what will help them the best. They know what will help them. I'm here to facilitate that as best we can," she said.

Victim assistance coordinator Jacqueline Joy can be reached through the confidential hotline, 716-895-3010, by email at, or by mail at 425 Main Street, Dunkirk, NY 14048. For more information on the diocesan policy on sexual abuse of children and young people, visit  

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