“Everything that I love is gone,” -Theola Nealy, mother, interview with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/27/2009.
Peter J. Nelsen is a former Wisconsin social worker who coerced a vulnerable client, Theola Nealy, into having sex with him. According to Nealy, she did not want to have sex and she only agreed to sex with Nelsen after he promised that he could prevent the state from taking her two children. In conflicting interviews, Nelsen claims the relationship was “inappropriate”, and but that he was “kind and decent” to Nealy. When Nealy became pregnant, she claims that Nelsen pressured her into having an abortion—she refused and gave birth to a daughter in August 2008. After the birth of her daughter, Nealy allowed Nelsen to visit the baby but there were often fights, and Nealy claims that Nelsen would take the baby and refuse to bring her back. In August 2009, Nealy filed and received a retraining order against Nelsen. Nelsen then filed for sole custody of the child and won.
Nealy is now suing the State of Wisconsin, Nelsen and BMCW for damages; alleging that Nelsen was acting within the scope of his employment as a social worker when he forced her to have sex. Reported on 9/24, a federal jury found the State of Wisconsin is not financially liable for Nelsen. The jury must now decide how much to award Nealy, she is seeking $15 million dollars in damages. The case is being tried before U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert (federal court).
Peter Nelsen has not been criminally charged because the District Attorney’s Office says the sexual relationship was consensual. However, according to Wisconsin law,”Minors, persons suffering from mental illness or defect, and sleeping or unconscious persons are presumed unable to give consent. Failure to resist does not indicate consent.” Section 940.225 (4). Nealy has been diagnosed with mental illness. According to the Journal Sentinel (http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/55560152.html), Nealy provided them a copy of a court-ordered psych eval from 2008 showing that she suffers from anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder with schizoid, paranoid and narcissistic features. According to court records, Nealy has been referred to the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) more than 10 times. Her parental rights to a son were terminated in June 2006. So what is it? Either Nealy is mentally ill and Nelsen should be charged with sexual assault under Statue 940.225 (4) OR Nealy is not impaired, able to give consent, and is entitled to custody and/or visitation with her children.
Nelsen has not been formally investigated for other possible abuses while working as a social worker. There are also allegations that Nelsen would never had been held accountable by BMCW if the story had not hit the media, and public attention was drawn to it. According to the Journal Sentinel, “Under state law, the bureau was required to report Nelsen to the Department of Regulation and Licensing, but it failed to do so until contacted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.” (http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/woman-seeks-damages-from-caseworker-who-fathered-her-child-b99357097z1-276398261.html?utm_content=buffer549b7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer)
Nelsen continues to live in Milwaukee with his girlfriend of 16 years, Donna, and is raising two children (one fathered with Nealy). Nelsen is working as a janitor but is actively seeking employment where he can “use my strong interpersonal skills and expertise in the social service field”. (http://www.resumebucket.com/Peternelsen)
Scary thought that Nelsen could be working in a job or position closely related to social services, in close contact and having authority over another vulnerable woman and her family. It could happen, because in 2010, Nelsen worked at Reversing the Trend LLC, “Quality Assurance/Trainer: Ensure the development and coordination of all programs are in compliance with the terms of the Department of Children & Families contract. Monitor and facilitate the timely and accuracy of case notes into the Case Management System. Implement child welfare specific curriculum with regards to supervised visits. Conduct in-house trainings, and distribution of appropriate materials.” (http://www.resumebucket.com/Peternelsen) Nelsen is willing to relocate to find a better job…in my opinion, hell would be the best place for him.
Nelsen also enjoys spending time on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peter.nelsen1
Be a Voice for the Children is a page to stop child sexual abuse and support survivors.
The Description for Protecting Milwaukee’s Kids says: “Milwaukee’s abused and neglected children deserve qualified, certified social workers.”
Stop Bullying in Schools is a page to raise awareness about bullying.
That Nelsen is interacting with these professionals on facebook, and seeking this type of employment is alarming and shows he has little-if any-remorse for his actions. Peter Nelsen preyed upon a vulnerable woman, who felt powerless and afraid of him a social worker, who could take custody of her children. He was also 25 years older than Nealy. Nelsen’s resume shows has years of experience and training in recognizing abuse, preparing family assessments and working with families in a variety of settings. There is no doubt Nelsen not only knew what he was doing was wrong—but he knew what kind of victim to target, who would be not only vulnerable but unable to fight back—mentally, physically and even legally. This was not a consensual relationship. In my opinion, Nelsen acted with predatory behavior, and if this is not considered rape or sexual assault–then it is in the very least, a form of sexual abuse. A person like Nelsen who received sexual gratification from taking advantage of someone who is vulnerable is a danger and should not be given sole custody of any child–let alone a child who was conceived in a sexually abusive (and emotionally/psychologically abusive) relationship. Nelsen should be criminally charged because his actions are criminal, and the public needs to be protected from him.
Even if Theola Nealy wins millions, it will never be enough to ease the loss of her children or to replace them in her life. I applaud Nealy’s courage to publicly speak out and fight for her children. I don’t know all the details of Nealy’s situation, but I know there has to be a better way than what was done to her and her children. This is clearly is a mother who loves her children, who is invested in them and if the situation truly is that she cannot have her children living in her home, she at least deserves a chance to have regular visits or some kind of regular contact.
— Emily Court
Between 1997-2009, Peter Nelsen was a social worker employed by the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW). Until September 30, 2009, Nelsen was certified as a clinical social worker through a state examining board.
In July 2007, Nelsen was assigned to Theola Nealy’s case after a child abuse allegation involving her two children was reported to BMCW. Nelsen investigated, and concluded the allegation was unsubstantiated. When a second allegation was made in August 2007, another social worker was assigned to the case but Nelsen told Nealy he had taken over the case.
Nelsen found the second allegation to also be unsubstantiated but did not tell Nealy that. Nelsen began to visit Nealy’s home frequently, every week then appearing on a daily basis. The visits lasted about an hour, and Nelsen’s questions and behavior became increasingly more intimate towards her. Nealy felt uncomfortable but was too afraid to object because she feared that Nelsen had the power, and would possible, remove her two children from her care if she raised concerns. She alleges that Nelsen displayed his “power” by wearing his BMCW badge prominently around his neck, and telling Nealy he had the power to arrest her. Nelsen also said he could learn anything about Nealy by running her name through a state database.
Nelsen began a sexual relationship with Nealy in September 2007, which he claims was consensual. Nealy says that she was coerced into having sex with Nelsen, this was not a relationship, she did not want to have sex. Nealy says that she engaged in sex with Nelsen only because she feared his power to impact her children’s custody and placement, and she did not want to lose her children.
Nealy says that when she became pregnant, Nelsen pressured her into having an abortion. Nealy refused and says that within weeks of refusing to have an abortion, December 21, 2007, Milwaukee police and BMCW took Nealy’s two children into state care. It has not been publicly released why the children were taken or under what circumstances.
Nealy gave birth to a daughter in August 2008. Nelsen gained access to the maternity ward by displaying his social worker credentials. Nelsen asked for visits with the child, which Nealy allowed. Nealy was excited to be a mother, prepared a home for her daughter, and wanted to reunite with her 2 other children. Then Nelsen began to take the baby for longer periods of time, and allegedly refused to return the child, and then told Nealy she could only visit her daughter if supervised. Nealy and Nelsen remained in contact, and the child was being cared for by both of them at different times (though Nelsen did not publicly state he was the father). At the time there was not a custody order in place.
Nelsen began to post pictures of the baby on facebook, and even brought the baby to work. Nelsen made up various stories to anyone who asked about the baby, and denied he was the father.
In early 2009, Nealy revealed Nelsen’s name as being the father of her daughter to a BMCW supervisor and also to her caseworker.
In April 2009, Nelsen was put on administrative leave and questioned by BMCW about his relationship with Nealy. BMCW would have terminated Nelsen from the job due to this inappropriate relationship but he resigned before any formal action could be taken against him. The administrative code of ethics that Wisconsin social workers are required to follow strictly forbids sexual contact with clients. The rule states: “A person shall continue to be a client for two years after the termination of professional services.”
After he was fired from his job, Nelsen began to contact the caseworker assigned to Nealy, and allegedly made negative remarks about her. Nelsen allegedly told the caseworker that he would never allow Nealy to have her daughter back.
On August 14, 2009, Nelsen took Nealy and the baby shopping. During the trip, Nealy slipped out of the store with the baby, and called a domestic abuseagency for help. The agency provided Nealy with a cab to a shelter, and helped her to obtain a restraining order against Nelsen.
On August 17, 2009, Nelsen called Bridgette Linderman of BMCW saying he was “anxious and worried about the location of the baby”. Nelsen and Linderman appear to be facebook friends.
That same day, a BMCW social worker was assigned to a same day response referral agency who was directed to take the baby, if found, and place the baby in the home of Nelsen. The baby was found with Nealy at her mother’s house and taken into custody, despite the restraining order against Nelsen. When the baby was placed with Nelsen, an emergency detention action was initiated in Milwaukee County Children’s Court.
(With these serious issues raised against both parents, you would think the state would take the child into protective custody and do an investigation to recommend placement…despite the mother’s history, there are serious questions about the fairness of these proceedings, and if other intervention could have been sought before taking away all of Nealy’s children—let alone giving custody to the man who sexually assaulted her.)
The story soon hit the media, and Nealy claims she was harassed and intimidated by BMCW workers who frequently visited her home, and conspired to take her baby and give custody to Nelsen. Nealy also claims that a BMCW supervisor was giving Nelsen advise on how to proceed with child custody of the baby.
On September 23, 2009, the Wisconsin Marriage & Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board revoked Peter Nelsen’s social work license. Nelson also must pay $515 to the Department of Regulation and Licensing for the costs of the investigation and proceedings against him.
September 2014: Nealy’s suit reaches federal court. Nealy is suing for $15 million in damages, alleging Nelsen was acting in the scope of his state employment when he coerced her into a sexual relationship. The case is being tried before U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert.
Reported on 9/24, a federal jury found the State of Wisconsin is not financially liable for the actions of Nelsen. The jury must now decide how much to award Nealy . The jury awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Nelsen is responsible for paying the entire amount but the State of Wisconsin is not financially liable for his behavior.
Nealy has never been reunited with her children; if she wants to see her youngest daughter, it will have to be on Nelsen’s facebook page. Nelsen has full custody of the child. That is not only tragic it is an outrage.
”Assigned to check abuse, social worker impregnates client” by Crocker Stephenson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/27/2009: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/55560152.html
“Milwaukee clinical Social Worker Peter J. Nelsen loses license for impregnating client” by Psych Crime Reporter, 12/10/2009: http://psychcrimereporter.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/milwaukee-clinical-social-worker-peter-j-nelsen-loses-license-for-impregnating-client/
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN, Nealy v. Wisconsin. Case No. 11-C-0541. Filed 07/29/13. Judge Clevert, U.S. District Judge.
“Woman says she got pregnant by social worker; has child. State representative calls for investigation.” WISN.com, 8/29/2009: http://www.wisn.com/Woman-Says-She-Got-Pregnant-By-Social-Worker-He-Has-Child/8069908
“Woman impregnated by her social worker awarded $1.05 million in damages” by Crocker Stephenson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/24/2014: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/state-found-not-liable-for-social-worker-who-impregnated-troubled-woman-b99358458z1-276961381.html
“Woman seeks damages from caseworker who fathered her child” by Crocker Stephenson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/22/2014: http://www.jsonline.com/news/crime/woman-seeks-damages-from-caseworker-who-fathered-her-child-b99357097z1-276398261.html?utm_content=buffer549b7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer