Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee WI]
April 19, 2022
By Laura Schulte
A year after Attorney General Josh Kaul announced a formal investigation into abuse by members of the clergy in Wisconsin, more than 200 reports have been made to the Department of Justice.
Those include more than 150 individuals accused of abuse, and 51 people were reporting an instance of abuse to law enforcement for the first time, according to a Tuesday morning press release.
Kaul said in an interview that the number of survivors who reported to the department for the first time signals their trust.
“One of our goals when we launched this was to provide a safe and trusted place for survivors to support,” he said. “Having 51 people come forward and report information who had never previously reported to law enforcement or religious authorities, to me, indicates that we have succeeded in providing a place where survivors trust the process and know they will be treated with dignity and respect.”
Individuals are able to make a report to the department either by phone or by submitting a form online, according to a news release. In total, more than 1,000 calls have been made to the hotline since its launch last year.
So far, one report has resulted in charges being filed against a 33-year-old man in Waushara County. Remington Jon Nystrom, 33, was charged with one count of first-degree sexual contact with a child under 13 in connection with an incident that occurred in 2009.
Nystrom was a counselor at a Mount Morris camp in Waushara County when, police say, he inappropriately touched a sleeping 10-year-old.
Mount Morris is affiliated with the Moravian Church of America.
After the report of abuse by Nystrom, the department and survivor agreed that the case should be turned over to local investigators, according to the Tuesday release, resulting in charges filed.
Two other cases were referred to Brown County District Attorney in Green Bay, but no charges have yet been filed.
When individuals report to the tip line, they are matched with a victim support specialist based on whether they indicated a willingness to be contacted for further conversation by the department, the release said. The specialist then helps the individual connect with survivor support resources as well as potential referral to local law enforcement.
Some reports can’t be sent on to local investigators because they fall outside of the state’s statute of limitations.
The specialists were trained to handle the claims of clergy abuse, the release said, meaning they are prepared to help survivors whether they’re reporting for the first time or not.
Reports have involved clergy and faith leaders from multiple religious organizations, as well as some reports of abuse not related to any religious organization. Some reports include claims against multiple abusers.
Kaul said that in addition to taking reports from survivors, the department is also reviewing already public documents, such as those made available in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy, as well as requesting documents from the Catholic dioceses and other orders as well.
“We’re going to move forward with our review regardless of what anybody else does, and it is our hope as this process continues to move forward that those from whom we request documents will work with us,” he said. “And recognize that by providing documents, they can potentially help confirm whether people committed assault, and help victims through the healing process.”
Kaul said there are no plans for ending it any time soon, though Kaul is facing reelection this fall.
“It is certainly my hope that regardless of who is elected that this process will continue,” he said.
How to file a report
To file a report, call 877-222-2620 or use the online reporting tool at supportsurvivors.widoj.gov. Both options provide the ability to file an anonymous tip.
The department is still accepting reports, and said survivors have control of what happens after their report is received.
Laura Schulte can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @SchulteLaura.