MADISON – Today, Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Representatives Chris Taylor (D-Madison) renewed calls for a public hearing on two critical bills they introduced in August to strengthen child abuse reporting laws and afford adult victims of childhood sexual abuse a long awaited chance at justice.
The Child Victims Act abolishes the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, allowing victims to pursue civil action against their perpetrator after the age of 35. And the Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act requires that clergy report instances of child abuse, including sexual abuse, and ends a loophole allowing child sexual abuse by clergy to remain secret and unreported. These bills will empower survivors to seek justice and healing, while helping to end the abuse of children.
The wide scale abuse of children by clergy has created public outrage throughout the world, including in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Archdiocese’s own files reveal how the systemic sexual abuse of children was covered up, ignored, and seldom reported to authorities until the early 2000s. In recognition of this crisis, just this week Pope Francis has ended the rule of “pontifical secrecy” that restricted access to Catholic Church documents related to priests’ sexual abuse of minors. These bills go further in seeking to correct this tragic injustice, cast light on child abuse and provide additional protections for children.
Sen. Taylor, Rep. Taylor, and Reverend James Connell of the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee released the following statements:
“Survivors of sexual abuse should never be told it’s too late to see justice,” said Sen. Taylor. “There’s no debate that in instances of childhood sex abuse, trauma can seriously impact one’s ability to come to terms with the pain they endured. The Child Victims Act will allow those survivors to seek justice on their own timeline, and I couldn’t be more proud to add my voice to the growing number of legislators across the country calling for action. This isn’t about red or blue, it’s simply about doing what’s right.”
“The abuse of children, including sexual abuse, is happening in communities and in congregations around the globe,” said Rep. Taylor. “Yet in Wisconsin, members of the clergy do not have to report the sexual abuse of children, even by other clergy members, if they received evidence of this abuse through private, confidential communications. The Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act will end the secrecy the law currently provides in shielding perpetrators of child abuse, including by clergy. There have been too many lives destroyed to not change our laws to protect children rather than pedophiles. It’s time that clergy become mandatory reporters of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, in every case. No exceptions and no excuses.”
“All Catholics, the laity and the clergy alike, should openly support the Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act because any law that hides criminals and endangers potential victims violates a basic moral principle of human life, the 5th Commandment,” said Rev. Connell. “Wisconsin also needs the Child Victims Act to eliminate the statute of limitations for the crime of child abuse. As child abuse claims are validated in a court of law, claimant allegations will be vindicated, criminals will be identified, and the public order and the safety of persons will be enriched.”