Thumbs-up: To naming names. A Chicago law firm has vowed to release the names of more than 300 Catholic clergy members with whom they’ve settled sexual abuse allegations over the past 20 years. The announcement came Thursday from attorneys with Jeff Anderson and Associates, who said they will release the information Feb. 11. While this is a good step for transparency, there’s more work to be done by the Illinois Catholic dioceses. The dioceses must publicly identify the more than 500 unnamed clergy members who Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said have faced sex abuse allegations.
Thumbs-down: To bottoming out. A truly alarming statistic made the news rounds late last week as The Associated Press reported police departments across the country are closing rape investigations at a low not seen since the 1960s. The AP’s report cited FBI data showing police nationwide closed only 32 percent of rape investigations, which ranks it second only to robbery as the violent crime least likely to be solved. The rate was as high as 62 percent in 1964, long before the advent of DNA testing.
We understand one statistic doesn’t tell the entire story. It’s likely reporting of such crimes has increased as social movements aim to ease the stigma on victims. And it’s also possible that law enforcement officers are responding to that cultural shift by leaving open cases they might have closed in a different time when accusations were less likely to be taken with the proper degree of seriousness. That would constitute progress, even as it skews the resolution rate. Still, the notion that 68 percent of reported rapes can’t be resolved one way or the other makes it very clear that something must change in the way these situations are investigated, especially if victims are being told it is important to report their experiences to police.
Thumbs-up: To some new state laws. Among the more than 250 laws that took effect in 2019, some do make sense. There’s a law that will require the Illinois Department of Corrections to document and report violence and inmate segregation in prisons. Another requires any company that wants to do business with the state of Illinois to have a policy for addressing workplace sexual harassment. Stalking laws will be expanded to include people who use social media to shadow and intimidate, and businesses, churches and other places of worship, and schools can seek restraining orders against stalkers. Health care facilities will be required to provide a free copy of medical records for homeless veterans if they need them to apply for disability benefits.