Clergy Abuse Victims Gather Together

By Doug Shupe
News 8 [Austin TX]
February 10, 2004

Victims of clergy abuse gathered in Austin on Monday night for the first local meeting of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests.

SNAP is the nation's oldest and largest self help group that offers support to those who've been abused by clergy.

The group's organizers say by sharing their stories, victim's of abuse are healing themselves.

"What we are able to provide for each other is, 'You're not responsible for this. You were abused. You were a child. There's no way you could have stopped this,'" said SNAP member Rob Scamardo.

At 15, Scamardo said a priest sexually abused him in a San Antonio hotel room.

He shared his story at the meeting.

"We're not professionals. We don't provide any sort of professional services. We're simply here to share our experiences and our hopes for healing because that's what we all seek," Scamardo said.

Other than self-help SNAP wants to educate communities about clergy abuse.

"One thing we've got to make people understand, it's not just a Catholic problem. It's in all denominations and independent churches as well," said Miguel Prats, the SNAP Texas State Coordinator.

The group also tries to prevent abuse from happening by holding church leaders accountable.

"When you are abused by a clergy it does something to your soul," Prats said.

That's exactly what Barbara Garcia Boehland said happened to her son Eduardo.

She said after a San Antonio priest abused him twice in 1993 at a seminary boarding school he changed dramatically.

"He had a lot of nightmares, on going nightmares, he couldn't trust people, constantly scared, could never eat. We constantly went to therapy sessions. He just became somebody else he wasn't," Boehland said.

Just four years after his abuse, Eduardo killed himself.

"Nothing is the same anymore, none of the family events are the same, you can't celebrate Christmas the same. There's always somebody missing now. It's not right," Boehland said.

After her son's death Boehland helped start the San Antonio Chapter of SNAP.

Now she's helping the new chapter in Austin.

"They need to know there are many other people out there just like them: afraid, scared, shaking, not trusting, crying, wanting someone to believe them. They need to know we are out here with open arms and waiting for them and we do believe them," Boehland said.

SNAP organizers say clergy abuse is a problem everywhere, but they aren't sure how many victims there may be in Central Texas.

Just a handful of people showed up for the first meeting. The San Antonio Chapter, which began last August started off slow, but now has two dozen victims.

For more information about SNAP, call (713) 305-0159.


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