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Chaz Howard and Jessica Mertz

Credit: Guyrandy Jean-GIlles , Amanda Suarez

The recent release of an alarming Pennsylvania Grand Jury report about clergy sexual abuse continues to play out in the local, national, and global news. This added to a string of painful and trust-breaking news stories that have come out exposing the horrific abuse of power by religious leaders across the world. We know this information is deeply unsettling for many of you, and may be contributing to ongoing feelings of distrust and unease about religious leaders.

We write today to offer our support to members of the Penn community who have been hurt, and who are still hurting.

Some of you may be triggered by just the mention of these stories. Others have found themselves disoriented and deeply disappointed in an institution they have loved and trusted their whole lives. All feelings are valid, whether you have a personal connection to this story or not.

It can be hard to know what to do with these conflicting feelings, especially when the stories themselves have seemed shrouded in silence and buried in a constant stream of headlines. There are several resources on campus that strive to be safe, welcoming, and accessible for any student with any need.

Students can talk 24/7 to clinicians at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which also has a sexual trauma treatment team providing specialized care. Special Services in the Division of Public Safety assists students interested in pursuing a criminal process. Penn Violence Prevention, the LGBT Center, and the Penn Women’s Center provide education and outreach, as well as confidential support to students impacted by sexual violence.

Students also may want to connect with Penn's Office of the Chaplain, where confidential staff can help you navigate complicated spiritual and religious thoughts arising from clergy abuse or other related news.

Penn staff stand ready to help students get the support they need wherever they are — on campus, off campus, abroad, regardless of when and where any acts of harm took place.

While the news moves quickly, and our resiliency is more palpable than ever, let us not forget to pause, reflect, be vulnerable, and offer each other the space to heal.

JESSICA MERTZ is the Director of Penn Violence Prevention. CHAZ HOWARD is the University Chaplain.