Diocesan Investigator Expands Abuse Focus

January 30, 2012

Kansas City's newest investigator of abuse in the Catholic Church said the rules are changing and investigators are casting a broader net.

Diocesan investigator Jenifer Valenti was appointed local sexual abuse investigator last summer as the priest abuse scandal ravaged the church.

Valenti said investigators don't plan to limit investigations to just reports of abuse. They're also going to look into suspicions of abuse.

"The Diocese is taking the position that we want to look into things that seem suspicious before we, somebody, has to report abuse," Valenti said. "Those behaviors may point to predators."

In the past, investigations started after a problem was reported.

Valenti is a former Jackson County, Mo., prosecutor and worked on domestic violence cases there. She told KMBC 9's Micheal Mahoney that she prefers accusers to step forward with their claims instead of making anonymous tips.

"There is no reason for an anonymous report," she said. "If there is an anonymous report that comes to me, that report will be forwarded to law enforcement, but there will not be an internal investigation of that report."

She said it's important for people to take the bold step of informing her office of the claims.

"It's my belief when it comes to protecting children, you've got to step forward," Valenti said. "It's that simple."

For years, critics have accused the church of deliberately covering up abuse by priests in order to protect itself.

"People may lean on me, but I'm not going to fall," Valenti said.

She said that means that she will follow claims made against anyone, even the bishop.

"There is no way I will sacrifice my integrity or my moral obligation to my own children, to my faith, for anyone," Valenti said. "I just won't do it."

Valenti said the problem of sex abuse by priests is no greater than it is by the general population. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children agreed, saying it does not believe that child abuse is a 'Catholic' issue.








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