Attorney General Pam Bondi on Thursday said reports of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Florida prompted her to launch a statewide investigation and led to a website where people can anonymously report allegations.
Bondi created the website - myfloridalegal.com/stopabuse - as part of an investigation into the state's seven Catholic Dioceses, which she said has been going on for several weeks.
More than 15 victims from Florida have recently come forward with allegations. Bondi said it happened after an investigation in Pennsylvania found that 1,000 children were sexually abused by Catholic priests since the 1940s.
She also encouraged victims to call the state Abuse Hotline.
"If you call in, please know that we want to help you, we want to counsel you and we want to get to the bottom of anything that could've happened on our state," she said.
Bondi said the Bishops in the Florida dioceses are all cooperating with the investigation and that she expects the office will be issuing subpoenas.
"Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the church and a threat to society," Bondi said at a news conference Thursday in Tampa.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said his agency will work with the Office of Statewide Prosecution and State Attorneys to review records of the Catholic Church in Florida.
Bondi said the Attorney General’s office is not limiting the investigation to Catholic churches, rather they want to hear about sexual abuse from any institution and from any time period.
It's limited to any churches, any youth organizations, any school, any institutional abuse we want to know about", she said.
Under state law, victim allegations will be held confidential. The website will be monitored by five attorneys and law enforcement officers.
Victims of ongoing abuse can call 911 or the abuse hotline at 1(800) 96-ABUSE.