AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the list of Catholic clergy members accused of abusing children was released Thursday, police say they’ll need cooperation from victims to move forward with any investigations.
“We need the victim to explain to us what happened so we can begin that process of investigating that case,” said Sergeant William White, who runs APD’s Child Abuse Unit. “The mere fact that we have the name of a person that might have potentially committed a crime, we still need to identify the person against whom he committed the crime in order for us to move forward.”
White says while older cases are generally harder to investigate, he’s still encouraging victims to come forward.
“A good portion of our cases are cases that happened some time ago,” he said of the Child Abuse Unit. “There are ways that we move forward with those cases, despite the fact that there is no longer any forensic evidence or cooperating witnesses or whatever the case is.”
APD says although the focus is on the list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children, “APD would like to take this opportunity to encourage any sexual assault victim or survivor, regardless of circumstances, to make a report.”
White says victims should call 911 and file a police report to begin the investigative process, no matter how long ago the abuse happened. People can also call 311 and their cases will be assigned to a detective. Either way, APD says the case will be processed and handled. White says in many cases, police can help file emergency protective orders.
White also says survivors can maintain anonymity, to an extent.
“We do offer something, which is where they use a pseudonym for the police reports and things like that, and for public record,” he said. “However, that person may still be called upon to testify in court, and they would have to provide their information through the court system.”
In 2007, state lawmakers changed the statute of limitation to indefinite when it comes to child sexual abuse. White says anyone who was victimized before that, should still come forward, however.
“It can vary, depending on when the crime happened and how old they were at the time, how old they were when a certain date was met, because the laws changed in 2007,” he said. “The bottom line of what they need to do is if they feel they were the victim of a crime, is they need to report it to us. We’ll figure that out on the back end as to whether or not we can still prosecute on the case, but if they don’t come forward, we’ll never actually be able to make that determination.”
White says APD detectives will be running the names released in Austin through their systems, to see if they can link them to any old police reports. From there, detectives may try to pick those old investigations back up.