Group Forms for Victims of Clerical Assaults
Man Abused Years Ago Sets Formation in Motion
By Jim DeBrosse jdebrosse@DaytonDailyNews.com
Dayton Daily News [Dayton OH]
Downloaded August 23, 2003
DAYTON | Stuart Dupras was a lonely, grieving 17-year-old — his mother dead four years, his father emotionally distant — when his family was befriended by a New York City priest who happened to be passing through their upstate New York parish.
After two years of correspondence, the priest invited Dupras to visit him in the city and see the sights. It was there that Dupras said his life changed forever for the worse. The compassionate, charismatic man of faith he had come to trust and admire sexually assaulted him in a bedroom of the rectory.
Dupras said he spent the next 20 years struggling with anger, addiction and his sexual identity, never discussing the assault with anyone, not even his wife. He and his family moved to the Dayton area in 1991.
It wasn't until 1996, when the same priest came to visit Dupras and his family, that he decided to deal with his past with the help of a local Christian ministry.
Now Dupras wants to help others who may be hiding the same secret hurt and shame by starting a local chapter of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, a national organization devoted to providing resources and support for abuse victims.
SNAP will provide help to any victim of sexual abuse — men or women, Catholics or non-Catholics — by providing safe, confidential, independent support groups where they can be believed and heard. Sometimes, the group directs them to therapists and, for those who want them, lawyers and spiritual counselors.
Most important, SNAP wants to give survivors the opportunity to come forward and give voice to their hurt.
"Let them yell and scream and beat their chests, if that's what they really need to deal with this," Dupras said. "We want to restore their dignity and their self-esteem because basically that's where it has got to start. Then together we can get the help we need."
Based in Chicago, SNAP was started in 1990 and has 4,600 members in 53 chapters scattered through most of the United States, Executive Director David Clohessy said. Ninety-eight percent of its members are abuse victims and their families, he said.
Although SNAP's primary mission is reaching out to victims, it has lobbied for legal changes that will make it easier to report and prosecute sexual abusers. In many communities, SNAP also has lent support to Voices of the Faithful, a Catholic lay organization pushing for structural changes within the church that will end its sexual abuse crisis. VOTF has more than 160 parish affiliates in 40 states, including one in the Dayton area.
Dupras, 41, said he first found help for his problem in the late 1990s through a local Christian ministry and, then a year ago, through the national SNAP organization, which can be contacted at www.snapnetwork.org. He has been in therapy for three years, trying to rebuild his confidence, his marriage and his ability to maintain friendships.
Dupras said the assault at age 19 damaged his ability to trust others, even God.
"I noticed I was really sabotaging my friendships, keeping my friends at arm's length away," he said. "I know God loves me, but I feel very afraid to be close to him. I know that doesn't make sense to most people, but it does to a survivor of abuse."
Dupras said he hopes to find a meeting site within two to three months — on neutral ground not part of the Catholic church. Those wishing to join the SNAP chapter can reach him at 657-1893 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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