LANSING, MI (WILX) - There may be hundreds of even thousands more victims of clergy sex abuse who have yet to come forward.
That's according to Attorney General Dana Nessel.
She announced charges against five Catholic priests Friday morning.
The attorney general is crediting the clergy abuse tip hotline for prompting nearly all of Friday's charges and arrests.
However she estimates they've only gone through 5 to 10 percent of the total information they've received so far.
"This is only tip of the iceberg," said Nessel at Friday's press conference.
Nessel announced charges against five priests.
Two of them worked in the Lansing Catholic Diocese.
One suspect, Timothy Crowley, is accused of molesting a boy at Saint Mary Parish in Jackson and Saint Anthony in Hillsdale.
Nessel says this is only the beginning.
"We have hundreds of thousands of pages of documents from every diocese in the state that we haven't yet reviewed and we continue to dig so we anticipate many more charges and arrests," said Nessel.
A team of 44 attorneys, special agents and police are working through reports from around the state. Deputy General Ann Sherman is a practicing catholic and part of the task force.
"I am deeply disturbed by what we have discovered," said Sherman. "We found one where a priest was saying this child victim needed to simply admit that he teased and gave permission for the abuse to occur."
And Nessel says doesn't know if the job will done in two years as originally expected.
"We continue to get tips in all the time so our first priority of course is contact the people making tips which means its a much longer process of getting all the hundreds of thousands of the pages of documents that we have," said Nessel.
One man who was abused by a priest that has already been convicted is urging other survivors to come forward.
"There's people out here that care about you, hear your story and want to help," said Andy Russell of Jackson.
The Lansing Diocese put out a statement saying it welcomes the charges and wants justice to be served on those who betrayed the priesthood.
SNAP, the Survivors Network, that has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years, released a statement following Nessel's announcement.
"We are grateful to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for updating the public on her investigation and for her and her team’s steadfast pursuit of justice for survivors of clergy sexual abuse. The charges announced today will bring not only healing to survivors in Michigan but will also help keep the vulnerable safer.
By charging five priests with these 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct, AG Nessel and her team have shown that secular investigations work and that survivors who do come forward and make a report have a real shot at justice. We hope that today’s news will encourage other survivors who have yet to speak out to call in to the AG’s hotline at 844-324-3374 or send an email to email@example.com.
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