April: Child Abuse Prevention Month

By | April 1, 2009

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Acker was arrested during a swim practice at West Milwaukee Middle School after a man, whom Acker allegedly assaulted in the 1970s, saw him and contacted police. At least three other men in their 40s and one teenager have since come forward to report they were abused by Acker.

“We believe we’ve only scratched the surface with victims we’ve talked to already,” Deputy Inspector Bradley Wendlandt stated at a March 27 news conference.

This tragic story points to the continued need for vigilance and awareness when it comes to child sexual abuse. As Catholics, we are all too familiar with the consequences of complacency in identifying and responding to reports of child sexual abuse. The church’s sexual abuse scandal has taught all of us a painful, costly lesson: Sexual abuse can happen anywhere. We now know that abuse prevention is an ongoing challenge.

It’s a shame that it took a scandal of national scope to put the Catholic Church in a position of leadership when it comes to child abuse prevention. However, the church today is a leader among institutions in protecting children from abuse. The reparation for our negligence is to protect all of our children, Catholic and non-Catholic, from ever suffering abuse of any kind.

That is why the U.S. bishops have continued to enforce nationwide safe environment programs in every diocese – programs that teach children important lessons such as how to recognize abuse and how to protect themselves.

Since 2002, when the U.S. bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, more than 5.7 million children have participated in abuse awareness classes and more than 1.7 million clergy, educators, employees and church volunteers have been trained in how to create and maintain safe environments for children. Between 2004 and 2008, the Green Bay Diocese spent approximately $500,000 for safe environment training, background investigations and educational resources.
Criminal background checks are the norm for clergy, candidates for ordination, employees and volunteers.

Protection of children is just one part of the church’s response to abuse. Reaching out to victims of abuse is another key component. In 2008, outreach was provided to 3,273 victims and families, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Locally, the diocese spent approximately $135,000 assisting victims of abuse between 2002 and 2008.

When allegations of abuse are discovered in the church, all dioceses are required to report them to law enforcement authorities. Any cleric found guilty or who admits guilt is permanently removed from ministry.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Green Bay Diocese recognizes the importance of observing this month. Ann Fox, diocesan assistance coordinator, and Karen Bass, safe environment assistant, have asked every parish to help bring greater awareness to this issue. They have provided materials to all parishes that outline all of the resources available in the fight against child abuse, and they have included liturgical guides that pastors can use to incorporate abuse prevention themes in homilies and intercessions at Masses during April.

Keep them safe. That is the promise the U.S. church has made to us. For our children, let us help the church and its leaders keep that promise.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top