Creve Coeur Police confirmed Thursday that 11 people have now come forward with allegations of abuse against a former teacher and coach.
Police investigated the case and forwarded it to the St. Louis County Prosecutor, but found that the statute of limitations had expired. The teacher in question worked at the school from 1970 to 1979. Creve Coeur Police have forwarded one of the victim's cases to St. Charles County authorities and are still encouraging people to speak up. "We definitely want to know, regardless of when they happened," Sgt. Jon Romas told Patch Thursday, pledging that cases will be pursued to the furthest extent possible.
The probe comes at a time when there is heightened awareness relating to sexual abuse cases nationwide, thanks in part because of the high profile criminal case brought against former Penn State University Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky, and claims that a former Syracuse University Assistant Basketball Coach Bernie Fine also abused young people. "Media exposure has definitely encouraged people to come forward in other cases," Sgt. Romas said.
Jennifer Bernstein, Child Abuse Prevention Program Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children's Service, at 10950 Schuetz Road just outside Creve Coeur, said her program has received more requests for training on mandated reporting laws and knowing the signs of abuse.
Abuse Victim To Congress: Take Allegations Seriously
Tuesday, former National Hockey League veteran Sheldon Kennedy shared his story of abuse in front of a Senate subcommittee panel on "Breaking the Silence On Child Abuse: Protection, Prevention, Intervention and Deterrence."
Kennedy told Senators in his prepared testimony that, in his experience, "a child who is being abused has to tell – on average – seven people before their story is taken seriously. Seven! That is completely unacceptable."
Kennedy told senators it took him 10 years to tell authorities in Canada about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his junior hockey coach. Kennedy has since founded an organization which has focused on training adults about abuse.
"There needs to be a paradigm shift in society," Bernstein said. "We need to speak up on behalf of kids who are being abused. All too often, people are afraid of the repercussions. However, if enough bystanders take action, it can make a huge difference."
But first, bystanders have to understand their role, she said.
"They must have a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being subjected to abuse or neglect. This does not mean they have to conduct an investigation. This does not mean they have to have proof. A reasonable cause to suspect could mean anything from witnessing abuse to just having a gut feeling that something is off."
Bernstein said her program, which she said has also seen an increase in requests from doctor's groups, is booked through February.