Group Starts Chapter for Victims of Clergy Abuse

By David Briggs
Plain Dealer Religion Reporter [Cleveland OH]
August 1, 2003

A national advocacy group for victims of priest sexual abuse is starting a chapter in Cleveland.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests announced yesterday that a Cleveland group will begin monthly meetings in August to give abuse survivors a safe forum to seek help and share their experiences.

Barbara Blaine, president and founder of the Chicago-based group, said local members may choose to become involved in lobbying for victims and monitoring diocesan policies, but the chapter primarily will be a support group.

The organization is "95 percent AA and 5 percent Mothers Against Drunk Driving," she said during the announcement outside St. John Cathedral in downtown Cleveland.

Blaine, a Toledo native, said she hopes the Cleveland diocese will help refer victims to the independent support group.

Robert Tayek, diocesan spokesman, said the church wants to do what is possible to help victims. "We have not been formally contacted by SNAP, but are always open to discussion," he said.

Survivors Network has some 4,600 members in 56 chapters across the country.

In the Cleveland diocese, 15 active priests have been placed on leave due to allegations of abuse. A seven-month investigation by county prosecutors into the diocese produced evidence that more than 1,000 people were victims of sexual abuse, with accusations against 496 possible sexual offenders, of whom 145 were priests. Only one priest was indicted, in part because the statute of limitations had expired in many cases.

Blaine said the Cleveland chapter was started in response to requests from area victims for a support group. Eight people attended an organizing meeting earlier this week.

"When we share our stories with one another," Blaine said, "we can find strength and creative ways" to deal with the problem.

Christopher Trunk, 41, a local man who says he was sexually assaulted as a seminarian at the University of Notre Dame, said the chapter can help people take care of themselves emotionally and physically as they confront their abuse and their abusers.

Although the group has priests in its name, people abused by clergy from any religious group are welcome, Trunk said.

"It's a crime of power," he said. "Rape is an abuse of power, and that goes across denominations."

Interested people can call 312-409-2720 for the location of the group's first meeting. Organizers say confidentiality will be protected.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4812


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