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When and how to report child sexual abuse

November 12, 2011

The following story aired on WEAU in Eau Claire on November 10, 2011

By: Amelia Cerling

EAU CLAIRE (WEAU) — In light of the sex abuse charges at Penn State, Eau Claire Police Chief Jerry Matisyk says this is a good reminder to both parents and organizations on how to properly report abuse.

The grand jury report which talks about the Penn State sex abuse charges, notes that the scandal was covered up for years. Matisyk says, like in the Catholic Church’s case, cover ups like this happen all too often

Over the years Matisyk has vocalized his opposition to the La Crosse Catholic Diocese child sex abuse reporting policy, saying the church should have parishioners report directly to the police, rather than the church first.

Matisyk says unfortunately the church isn’t alone in covering up abuses, as the Penn State scandal so clearly proves.

“I think the lesson here for all citizens is that child sexual abuse is a crime, a serious crime and it needs to be reported directly to the police, not to the organization where the crime occurred,” he says.

But, James Birnbaum a lawyer for the La Crosse Diocese says its policy is to report sexual abuse to the bishop, as a way of to ensure it gets reported to authorities.

“The reason that we have a policy of reporting to the bishop is the bishop is obligated by law to make the reports and we want to make sure those reports are made. If the bishop fails to make a report as mandatory reporter, he can be sued for that,” Birnbaum explains.

But, Matisyk says human nature all too often turns to protect the organization above the victim.

“The problem is with some organizations, if some people in a higher position find out about this they tend to try to cover up evidence, tend to try and tell people not to cooperate and that’s destructive to the truth. Nothing is worth the price of a new victim,” Matisyk tells us.

Even if you only have suspicions, Matisyk says don’t be afraid to go to the police.

“If there are people that have either witnessed suspicious activity that seems unusual, doesn’t seem to make sense, we are fine with taking that kind of information and taking a closer look,” he explains.

Chief Matisyk says the cleanest policy an organization can have is to report any criminal behavior to police.


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