SAFETY, JUSTICE & HEALING

Long-time R.I. psychologist leads diocese’s efforts for healing, prevention

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The Diocese of Providence’s commitment to safety, justice and healing stretches back to 1993 with the establishment of the Office of Compliance. This initiative preceded the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2002 charter formalizing procedures to protect children across the country by nearly 10 years.

Dr. Michael Hansen, director of the Office of Outreach & Prevention, works closely with the Office of Compliance to protect young people and to help victims of abuse heal. A practicing psychologist in Rhode Island for 26 years, Dr. Hansen has many years of clinical experience in counseling abuse victims. He received his M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rhode Island (URI) in 1988 and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from URI in 1992.

In his role, Dr. Hansen responds quickly to new cases of abuse that are reported to the Office of Compliance and ensures that victims receive support and referrals for counseling as needed.

“It is important that it be widely known that we have a well-established office of outreach. It reflects a strong commitment that individuals are listened to and supported, particularly when individuals may not have been listened to very well in the past,” said Dr. Hansen.

Dr. Hansen’s work is twofold — in addition to responding to new cases, he helps to oversee safety and prevention efforts across the diocese. His responsibilities include coordinating comprehensive safe environment training for all members of the clergy as well as all diocesan employees and volunteers who have contact with children and young people. Training includes extensive information on awareness of abuse, a clear code of conduct, and a strict reporting process. Most importantly, Dr. Hansen works with the Office of Compliance to maintain a database to track all clergy, staff and volunteers who have received training. All training must be renewed every three years. Children and young people also receive annual training to understand what conduct is appropriate and to make them aware of boundaries, what to do if they feel uncomfortable and how to report inappropriate conduct.

Dr. Hansen also works closely with the Diocesan Advisory Board for the Protection of Children and Young People. The seven-member lay board is charged with ensuring that the diocese responds to victims and is compliant with all mandated reporting requirements. In addition, the diocese reports allegations to the R.I. State Police and the R.I. attorney general, both of which exceed the reporting requirements established in current R.I. state law.