MADISON – An investigation seeking reports of abuse by members of the clergy in Wisconsin has generated nearly 180 reports from residents across the state, according to the Department of Justice.
The investigation, which launched in April, sought out reports of abuse at the hands of clergy members within the Catholic church and other denominations as reports of institutional abuse continued to surface across the state.
“Thank you to the courageous people who have come forward to provide information about clergy and faith leader abuse,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul in a statement Thursday. “This review seeks to help bring healing to survivors and to help stop future harm, and we continue to encourage survivors and others with information to report.”
Since opening the inquiry in April, the Department of Justice has received about 180 reports of abuse by clergy and faith leaders or related to how a religious organization has responded to abuse. Reports have concerned clergy and faith leaders from multiple different religious organizations, as well as some reports of abuse not related to any religious organization, according to the department. Some reports include claims against multiple abusers.
Of the reports received, 80% have been reports of abuse, while 20% have related to how an institution handled a claim of abuse, according to the department. The ages of those reporting abuse range from under 18 to over 75. About 40% of the individuals who have reported to the clergy hotline have not reported to a law enforcement agency or a religious entity before.
Kaul said so far, he's happy with what has been accomplished.
"It's really encouraging to see that so many people regard our reporting system as one that provides a safe and trusted place to report," he said. "I'm very positive about how things are going."
Advocates are also happy to see the investigation moving forward and people having their stories heard and taken seriously.
"The number 200 is only a small fraction of the total number of victims and we hope what he's gathering will tell a narrative about what happened in Wisconsin," said Sarah Pearson, of the organization of Ending Clergy Abuse Wisconsin.