In cases of systemic sexual abuse, initiating an independent investigation is standard protocol. Sometimes, if the abuse is recent, the police will also investigate, but because of complex psychological reasons, many victims don’t report their abuse until the legal statute of limitations on sexual misconduct charges has passed. Or, in cases such as Presentation High School, where mandated reporters fail to contact the police, the statute of limitations often expires. In such cases, an independent investigation serves two purposes:
- It allows the organization to get a full picture of the misconduct that occurred, which allows them to make improvements in training staff on mandatory reporting laws, creating a safer environment, and minimizing the risk that such abuse will occur again.
- It demonstrates to the victims that the organization cares enough about their well-being to subject itself to this difficult process and to commit to making whatever amends are needed by the community. Although an investigation is not legally binding (meaning, it cannot result in arrests unless they fall within that state’s statute of limitations), it still provides a thorough accounting of wrongdoing that allows the organization and the victims to work together for justice.
For more information on the importance of independent investigations, we recommend the following article:
- Recommendations for Independent School Leaders from the Independent School Task Force on Educator Sexual Misconduct
The Catholic church has laid out very clear standards regarding both the protection of children and the appropriate way to handle allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members.
- Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People: Essential Norms (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
- Archdiocesan Policy for Addressing Allegations of Sexual Abuse or Misconduct by Clergy in the Archdiocese (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles)
Tates Creek Presbyterian Church demonstrated one of the more admirable responses to allegations of abuse by one of former youth leaders. Read the pastor’s letter:
Presentation High School is not alone in dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct. Sadly, dozens of schools around the nation have faced similar accusations. The following articles detail similar situations and how the school responded. These schools’ responses to their scandals demonstrate compassion, transparency, and justice.
- The Brearley School
- The Branson School
- Choate Rosemary Hall
- Horace Mann School
- The Key School
- Maret School
- Marlborough School
- Washington National Cathedral
Examples of Restorative Justice
The article below details how the Milwaukee Archdiocese removed the names of two archbishops from buildings. Those archbishops engaged in covering up sexual abuse by clergy.