KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The McNabb Center will serve as the new sexual assault victim’s reporting provider for the Diocese of Knoxville.

The Diocese of Knoxville announced that the region’s leading nonprofit provider for mental health, substance use, and social and victim services will become the first point of contact for anyone wishing to report a possible sexual abuse claim against the diocese.

“This is a positive step for our diocese, but most important it is a new path forward for anyone who feels that they have been a victim of abuse,” said Bishop Richard F. Stika. “We are pleased and grateful that the McNabb Center has agreed to take on this vital role as an independent third-party agency.”

According to the news release, the agreement between the Diocese of Knoxville and the McNabb Center was announced after several months of detailed discussion.

Father Douglas Owens, pastor of All Saints Catholic Church and a vicar general of the Diocese of Knoxville, served as interim coordinator while the agreement was developed.

The coordinator for the Diocese of Knoxville works to treat victims with dignity and respect while following the mandatory reporting laws.

“Sexual abuse is often difficult to talk about and we want to encourage individuals to report and receive support and assistance,” says Catherine Oaks, director of victim services for the McNabb Center. “Calls from the reporting line will be responded to compassionately by a master’s level clinician uniquely experienced and trained within our victim services division of McNabb.”

The partnership with McNabb and the Diocese of Knoxville will provide an independent avenue for individuals to report sexual abuse and receive information on how and where to access support and treatment.

The previous coordinator, Marla Lenihan, a licensed mental health therapist from Oak Ridge, served in the position for 20 years. She died in March following a battle with cancer.

The new phone line to the McNabb Center’s victim’s assistance coordinator is (865) 321-9080 and will activate Dec. 27. The coordinator will respond to al reports within on business day.