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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinMay 23, 2003 Issue 

Abuse awareness training set

Workers and volunteers who spend time with children will take the four-hour training

By Renae Bauer
Communications Department

Training scheduled

The Green Bay Diocese will host informational sessions on sexual abuse prevention from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. May 28, June 5, 6, 9 and 12 in conference room 1 of Bosco Hall on the diocesan campus, 1825 Riverside Dr., Green Bay. Sessions will be held on a separate day at Camp Tekawitha for its staff members.

Dates and times for additional sessions will be announced this fall and throughout the coming school year as they are scheduled.

Each session provides general information about child sexual abuse, what are the typical warning signs and how to respond appropriately. All priests, parish personnel, Catholic school administrators and teachers, diocesan employees and volunteers who have contact with children are required to attend one session. This is mandated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is required by the diocese to comply with national standards adopted last year.

Register at least three business days before the session you wish to attend by phoning (920)437-7531 or toll-free, 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8272 or e-mail [email protected].

The nearly 3,000 workers and volunteers who spend time with children in Catholic churches and schools in Northeastern Wisconsin can expect to attend a mandatory informational session this year.

The Green Bay Diocese is beginning a new program, "Protecting God's Children," to raise general knowledge about sexual abuse, its warning signs, the opportunities perpetrators look for, and how to eliminate such opportunities.

The initiative began last month with two sessions attended by 176 parish leaders. This summer and fall, priests, parish personnel, Catholic school administrators and teachers, diocesan employees and volunteers will attend the four-hour awareness and prevention program.

While the diocese has had a sexual abuse policy since the 1980s, it did not require formal instruction of adults who have contact with children. But last June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved the document "Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal," requiring all U.S. dioceses to comply with new national standards that include instruction on how to make and maintain a safe environment for children.

The"Protecting God's Children" program being used in the Green Bay Diocese includes two videos that present data, testimonies of survivors and interviews with convicted molesters to prove that abuse can happen anywhere and to anyone if the perpetrator has the opportunity.

Each video is followed by group discussions and workbook questions to reinforce the information from the videos. The materials were produced by the National Catholic Risk Retention Group Inc. in Lisle, Ill., for its Virtus series.

Karen Johnston, diocesan director of Catholic Charities and one of the leaders who ensured 18 diocesan employees were properly trained to lead "Protecting God's Children" workshops, said the Virtus materials are good.

"It's a classic view of the victim telling his or her own story and, perhaps, more frightening is hearing child molesters telling how easy it was," Johnston said.

Process started 4 years ago

Fr. Bob Kroll, diocesan consultant for Educational Leadership and one of 18 diocesan trainers, said the process for adapting the Virtus series began nearly four years ago after the bishops asked for an increase in people's awareness.

"This (program) is a response to a call to be proactive," he said.

Perhaps the most compelling data presented in the workshop concerns the numbers of people who are abused: 1 of every 4 women and 1 of every 8 men. Kevin Miller, clinical supervisor for Catholic Charities, says that as astounding as these statistics are, they have been relatively consistent for the last 10 years. Indeed, he said, it is widely believed that there are more victims than are reported.

Includes web-based resource

Virtus materials include a web-based resource, Virtus Online, an ongoing and supplemental program for those who participated in "Protecting God's Children" program. It also is a way to determine who has and has not completed the required sessions.

Johnston said Virtus Online will play an important role since it shows that the diocese has instructed people who work with children and that these people are continuing to be educated so they qualify for recertification each year.

Nationally, dioceses are required to use such programs by June 20. The National Review Board will monitor compliance with the "Promise to Protect" in the coming months and years through a series of on-site visits and reports each diocese is to complete. The "Promise to Protect" includes the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Essential Norms, the decree of Recognitio (recognition from Rome), and the statement of Episcopal Commitment.

Bishops approved charter

The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved the charter and norms last June in Dallas at a three-day meeting where they heard from victims, their families, experts on sexual abuse, the impact of abuse on survivors, and from Catholic laity.

The charter is the U.S. bishops' definitive response to concerns about sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Article 12 of the charter calls on each diocese to "cooperate with parents, civil authorities, educators and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children."

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© Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
1825 Riverside Drive | P.O. Box 23825 | Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
Phone: 920-437-7531 | Fax: 920-437-0694 | E-Mail: [email protected]