Charles "Chuck" Jansen, a once prominent member of the local community connected to St. Patrick Catholic Church, is now confronting numerous accusations of sexual misconduct with underage males. The allegations surfaced in late April 2023, triggering an ongoing investigation. Initially, the Kokomo Lantern refrained from reporting on the story due to the absence of criminal charges or official statements. However, on June 6, St. Patrick Catholic Church broke its silence and issued a statement in response to the incident after it gained attention on Facebook.
St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kokomo has announced that an investigation is underway following "misconduct allegations" involving a former employee. Reverend Father Christopher Shocklee addressed the matter through a statement released on the church's website on June 5.
The statement expressed the utmost concern for the safety and well-being of children and young people associated with Sts. Joan of Arc and Patrick Parishes and School. While the former employee's identity remains undisclosed, it was confirmed that the individual is no longer employed by the parish, school, or the diocese. The investigation into the allegations is currently ongoing.
In the statement, Rev. Fr. Christopher Shocklee emphasized the church's commitment to transparency and encouraged individuals with relevant information to come forward. People were urged to report any incidents involving the former employee to law enforcement and the state's child abuse and neglect hotline at 1-800-800-5556. Additionally, the Diocese of Lafayette has designated Jackie Montrie M.A., LMFT, LMHC as the Victim Assistance Coordinator, who can be reached at (765) 464-4988.
Due to employment-related limitations, the church refrained from providing specific details about the former employee's previous employment history. However, it assured the community that the matter is being taken seriously and that the investigation aims to ensure the safety and protection of all parishioners, particularly children and young individuals.
The St. Patrick Catholic Church and the entire diocese are committed to addressing misconduct allegations promptly and thoroughly, as the well-being of their community members is of paramount importance. Further updates regarding the investigation will be provided as information becomes available.
In the wake of the recent misconduct allegations at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kokomo, we reached out to local Indiana-based sexual abuse lawyer, Jeff Gibson, Esq., to gain insight into the legal options available to survivors of abuse within religious institutions. Darla Medina, one of our editors, conducted the interview with Mr. Gibson to provide valuable information to our readers.
Darla Medina (DM): Thank you, Mr. Gibson, for joining us today. Could you shed some light on what survivors of abuse can do from a legal standpoint when it comes to pursuing civil cases against those who enable abuse within religious institutions?
Jeff Gibson, Esq. (JG): Thank you for having me, Darla. Survivors of abuse within religious institutions have legal options to seek justice and hold those responsible accountable. One avenue they can explore is filing a civil lawsuit against the institution and any individuals who played a role in enabling or covering up the abuse.
DM: What does it mean for an institution to enable abuse?
JG: Enabling abuse can take various forms. It involves actions or failures to act by the institution or its representatives that contribute to or facilitate the occurrence of abuse. This could include negligence in hiring or retaining employees with known abusive tendencies, failure to respond adequately to reports of abuse, or engaging in a cover-up to protect the institution's reputation.
DM: How does the legal process work for survivors who decide to pursue a civil case?
JG: Each case is unique, but generally, survivors should consult with an experienced sexual abuse attorney to discuss their situation. The attorney will assess the viability of the case, gather evidence, and guide the survivor through the legal process. Depending on the circumstances, a civil lawsuit can seek compensation for damages, such as medical expenses, therapy costs, pain and suffering, and loss of income.
DM: Are there any specific challenges survivors may face when pursuing civil cases against religious institutions?
JG: Yes, there can be unique challenges in these cases. Religious institutions often have substantial resources and legal teams to defend themselves. They may also enjoy certain legal protections that could impact the lawsuit. Additionally, survivors may face emotional and psychological challenges while navigating the legal process. This is why it's crucial to work with an attorney experienced in handling abuse cases within religious contexts.
DM: What advice do you have for survivors who may be hesitant to come forward or pursue legal action?
JG: I understand that coming forward and pursuing legal action can be an incredibly difficult decision for survivors. My advice would be to reach out to a supportive network, including friends, family, or support groups, who can provide emotional support during this challenging time. Additionally, consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases can help survivors understand their rights and options, empowering them to make informed decisions.
DM: Thank you, Mr. Gibson, for your valuable insights and advice.
JG: You're welcome, Darla. It's important to raise awareness about the legal avenues available to survivors and ensure that their voices are heard. If any survivors need assistance or have questions, I encourage them to seek the guidance of a trusted attorney.
As survivors of abuse within religious institutions navigate the path to healing and justice, legal professionals like Jeff Gibson, Esq., continue to advocate for their rights. By shedding light on civil cases against enablers of abuse, survivors are empowered to take steps towards accountability and seek the justice they deserve.