Kansas considers requiring church leaders to report suspected child abuse in most cases

Jenna Barackman, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Religious News

When Joe Cheray wanted to escape the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of a relative, she said she turned to church leaders for help. And then nothing happened.

Cheray’s abuser was heavily involved in and a large financial contributor to a church located in northeast Kansas. But behind closed doors, Cheray said he was her worst nightmare.

Cheray said she suffered everything from emotional abuse and molestation – which she said would sometimes occur even in the pews during church services – to physical and financial abuse from ages 10 to 15.

But when she went to church leaders for help on two separate occasions, she was ignored.

“They didn’t have to do anything because they weren’t mandated at that time to do anything,” Cheray said. “I felt hopeless.”

A Kansas bill, advocated for months by Cheray, would designate clergymen as mandated reporters, thereby requiring them to report suspected abuse. It includes an exception for penitential communication, or private conversations between a clergyman and a layman such as reconciliation.


Kansas lawmakers will consider approving the legislation following a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

When Cheray turned 15, she ran away from home. She rode her bicycle several miles to a nearby town. When she arrived, Cheray again called on her priest for comfort. She said the priest simply told her to go back home and “pray that things get better.”

“I’m angry at the church because they didn’t do anything,” she said. “I don’t know why the Catholic Church continues to turn a blind eye to this stuff.”

Cheray said the person who abused her never faced criminal charges and died about 15 years ago.


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