Over 100 reports of clergy and faith leader abuse received by the Department of Justice

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - The State of Wisconsin is pushing forward with its investigation into reports of clergy and faith leader abuse.

Attorney General Josh Kaul says the Department of Justice (DOJ) has received more than 100 reports since launching a statewide inquiry in April.

“Many of the reports relate to clergy and faith leaders who are part of the Catholic Church, but some of the reports relate to other religious organizations, clergy, and faith leaders, and some reports don’t relate to any religious institution at all,” Kaul detailed.

While Kaul isn’t disclosing where exactly the reports are coming from at this time, he does say all corners of the state are represented.

“We have received reports from within each of the diocese,” Kaul explained. “There are five diocese in Wisconsin and there’ve been reports from within each of those areas.”

The DOJ is also working to connect survivors with local outreach organizations, like La Crosse’s New Horizons.

Development Coordinator Sierra Lyon says New Horizons provides unwavering support for victims of sexual assault.

“We give them the empowerment to choose their path as they navigate through this trauma, and our advocates will support the victims however they need,” Lyon said. “We are here to honor and respect the trauma that you’ve experienced.”

Lyon believes most survivors don’t speak out about their trauma due to a history of inaction.

“I think that people are familiar with having their story heard and having it not go anywhere, so I think that there’s just a fear that nothing will happen,” Lyon added.

Kaul says the investigation is meant to ease those fears, and is glad that survivors feel comfortable enough to tell their stories.

“Seeing this response says to me that people do see it as a safe, trusted place to report and they are using the option for reporting that’s available, and that’s encouraging,” Kaul said.

Reports will continue to be accepted over the next several months, with a final report being put together at the end of the process.

“We know how important this is, and we know that people want to see results, but the fact that it’s so important means that to do a good job we need to be thorough,” Kaul expressed.

He says district attorneys will have the final say in whether or not to pursue charges in individual cases.

Survivors of clergy or faith leader abuse are encouraged to contact the DOJ at 1-877-222-2620 or by visiting the following website.

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