Wisconsin AG to launch investigation into Wisconsin clergy sexual abuse, report finds

NOW: Wisconsin AG to launch investigation into Wisconsin clergy sexual abuse, report finds

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Mike McDonnell says as a survivor of clergy abuse, he knows first hand the value of holding religious institutions accountable.

“It is cathartic, McDonnell said. "It is an uncovering. And you really end up speaking for that 12-year-old self.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel uncovered a letter Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul sent to all five dioceses in Wisconsin, reportedly indicating he plans to launch an investigation into potential sexual abuse by clergy members.

Kaul's office told CBS 58 News they plan to make an announcement next week. They said "Any survivor of clergy or faith leader sexual abuse who is in need of support can contact DOJ’s Office of Crime Victim Services at 1-877-222-2620, Monday – Friday 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m."

McDonnell, now a spokesperson for The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP,) said a similar 2018 investigation in his home state of Pennsylvania was eye opening.

“The six dioceses uncovered over 300 predator priests, and over 1,000 victims,” McDonnell said.

Wisconsin would join more than 20 states in having an active investigation into sexual abuse by clergy.

SNAP said the average victim doesn’t report abuse until they are 52. That can cause statute of limitations issues.

University of Wisconsin Madison law professor Cecelia Klingele said only some crimes, such as first degree sexual assault of a child, have no statute of limitations in Wisconsin.

“Other sex crimes against children typically have a statute of limitations that last until the victim turns 45 years old,” Klingele said.

SNAP said 1 in 9 girls, and 1 in 53 boys suffer sexual abuse at the hands of an adult. They want to change statute of limitations laws, so those victims don’t run into the same problems as older victims.

“Predators die," McDonnell said. "Witnesses die. Victims die. Discovery gets lost.”

McDonnell said state investigations force the church to release documents and give victims a chance to bring them to court.

“Finally, to have their story told, and told in a format that holds predator, as well as the institution that enabled them, accountable.”

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee did not comment on the story.

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