DOJ gives update on Wisconsin clergy abuse inquiry, receiving more than 100 reports since April
MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - The Wisconsin Department of Justice says it has received more than 100 reports of abuse by clergy and faith leaders since opening a statewide inquiry in April.
The reports involve clergy and faith leaders from multiple organizations. Some reports have claims against multiple abusers.
The reports have concerned clergy and faith leaders of multiple religious organizations as well as some reports of abuse not related to any religious organization. Some reports include claims against multiple abusers.
“Victims services specialists are providing a safe, trusted place to report clergy and faith leader abuse. Many survivors have made reports, and some survivors are reporting abuse for the first time,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. “These reports are a critical part of our review of clergy and faith leader abuse.”
The inquiry is led by the DOJ with support from district attorneys, survivor groups, and crime victim services.
Kaul said he is not shocked by the number of reports already received, but he is saddened by them.
“We had heard prior to launching this inquiry from survivors of clergy abuse that they thought that a review was critical,” said Kaul. “Sexual assault is a serious violent crime and it’s tragic that there are so many cases. We’ve received over 100 reports as a result of this review.”
One of those reports is from Nathan Lindstrom’s family. They stood next to Kaul when he launched the inquiry two months ago. Lindstrom’s father said his son was sexually abused in the 80s as a student at Notre Dame Academy. Nathan died by suicide in 2020.
According to Notre Dame’s website, the Academy was established in 1990, when St. Joseph Academy, Abbot Pennings High School and Our Lady of Premontre High School consolidated. St. Joseph Academy was an all-girls school, while Abbot Pennings and Our Lady of Premontre were all-boys schools.
“It’s a tragedy what happened in his case and in so many other cases where we didn’t see the kind of response that we should have to these, these awful awful incidents,” said Kaul.
Kaul said the reports are coming in from all over the state, some for the first time with survivors talking for hours.
“I know that some survivors who have reached out, have appreciated having the opportunity to provide their, the information that they have to provide in a safe and trusted location with treatment and services specialists,” said Kaul.
Kaul said his office has already started requesting documents from diocese across the state who he says agreed to work with the DOJ, but he says “by large that so far hasn’t been the case.” Kaul would not tell Action 2 News which or how many dioceses are not cooperating at this time.
“We have reached out and asked for voluntary cooperation so far we have not talked about are the different steps that we might take as this moves forward, but right now we are in the fact-gathering stage we’re trying to get as much information as we can,” said Kaul.
While some reports received are past the statute of limitations, Kaul still encourages survivors to call in and tell their stories.
“We talked about the tragic case involving Nate Lindstrom; there are survivors of clergy and faith abuse who are still struggling and suffering as a result of the trauma from that abuse and connecting those people with services is going to help with the healing process and so the more people that do that, the better,” said Kaul.
Survivors, friends and family are encouraged to report abuse at https://supportsurvivors.widoj.gov/ or by calling 1-877-222-2620. All reports are confidential.
The DOJ says some survivors have spoken at length about abuse with a DOJ victim services professional. Survivors can choose how much information they want to share.
Each report will be reviewed by a team of law enforcement, victim services and prosecutors.
The DOJ will reach out to victims for consent should a case be referred to a district attorney for prosecution.
Action 2 News reached out to the Diocese of Green Bay for reaction.
Diocese officials said at 4:37 p.m. Tuesday they were not aware of any updates from Kaul, and didn’t have anything to share.
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