At a news conference this morning, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul gave a brief update on the state’s investigation into sexual abuse by clergy.
Kaul said his office has received over 100 reports since the investigation began this April.
When asked for more details on those reports, such as how many are within the statute of limitations to prosecute and how many were referred to support services, Kaul declined to comment for the time being.
“I’m not gonna provide specifics on the number of cases, we’re gonna wait until we get to the end of the process to provide those kinds of details about the reports we receive,” says Kaul.
Kaul, who recently announced his bid for re-election, emphasized that the investigation is ongoing, and will continue taking reports from the public.
The investigation encourages victims of abuse from any faith leader to come forward, but it focuses primarily on the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has been the subject of similar investigations for decades, due to abuse allegations that span the globe.
More than 170 Wisconsin priests have been accused of abuse, according to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel database.
Kaul says Wisconsin’s Catholic institutions have not been entirely cooperative with the investigation.
“Overall, between dioceses and religious orders, I would say that the response has been uneven. And it’s part of the reason that these reports are so critically important. Because if – to the extent that we’re not receiving documents and information, getting information through these reports is especially important,” says Kaul.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese has stated publicly that it will not turn over documents to the state’s Department of Justice. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Diocese of Madison stated in June that they sent a letter to Kaul’s office claiming that there were, quote: “zero credible allegations against clergy or faith leaders of sexual abuse of minors that occurred in the last 10 years.”
Kaul didn’t say whether he would subpoena dioceses that refuse to provide documents.
“We’re not gonna talk about the specific strategy we’re gonna take, but our goal is to get as many documents and as much information as possible, and what steps we take will depend in part on what information we learn, and we’re gonna follow the facts where they lead and take the investigative steps that we believe are appropriate based on that information,” says Kaul.
Also speaking at the news conference was Missy Mael, an executive director of Dane County’s Rape Crisis Center. She stressed the importance of support services for victims of abuse.
“If you’ve experienced any kind of sexual violence, whether it’s through clergy abuse or any other kind of sexual violence, please reach out for support,” says Mael.
Survivors of sexual abuse by clergy can call 1-877-222-2620 to make a confidential report, and speak with a DOJ victim services specialist. There is more information and an online reporting tool at supportsurvivors.widoj.gov.
If the report could lead to a criminal investigation, the person making the report will have the option to follow up with local law enforcement.
PHOTO: Karl Fredrickson / UNSPLASH