|Speech in Eden Prairie
By Belinda Martinez, Minnesota SNAP Leader
I am fine. I am a survivor, but I do not want to give you the impression that the impact of my abuse has faded. It is simply different. It has changed over the years.
I buried my daughter yesterday. You may think me either very foolish or very brave for attending this evening, but my presence has more to do with sincere commitment to survivors. I knew my daughter was going to die last week and when it became imminent, I phoned the parish office of the church she and I had been attending to ask for the pastor to anoint her. I followed the instructions on the voice message and dialed another number. He refused. Make no mistake; I am not implying that his response had anything to do with my history of abuse. His is a larger problem of abject apathy for his responsibilities. But I relate the story to you because when I went in search of another priest who might be willing to make the middle of the night trip to her hospital room to administer a sacrament, I felt forced to explain to him why I was unwilling to summon the on-call chaplain, and that has everything to do with my history of abuse. I can tell my story, but I resent having been forced to tell it at a time that was not of my choosing.
When I was a teenager, I was sexually abused by a priest in charge of a youth retreat facility. I was repeatedly incapacitated with medication and communion wine and abused in my sleep. This happened over the course of a two-week stay. Fourteen years later, I was sexually assaulted by a hospital chaplain the day after I had surgery. I was still under the lingering affects of anesthesia, and on pain medication as well. I had to protect my surgical sutures while he ejaculated in my face.
I kept the details of the first abuses a secret and as a result became hell-bent on self-destruction. I was a cutter. I was obsessed with burning myself with acid. I poured acid in my eyes. I swallowed thousands of pills. I have been in many emergency rooms throwing up pills, and I have been intubated in many emergency rooms because I refused to throw up the pills I swallowed. I have been locked in the most secure unit of a maximum-security mental health facility on the East Coast.
When I came forward with my abuse, I went to the archdiocese first. My abusers were notified immediately of their removal, but I was sent to speak with a bishop who was a good friend of one of the priests who abused me. I found him arrogant and patronizing and I was told to go home and consider what restitution meant and to come back when I had any ideas.
Well, I never did go back. I hired an attorney instead. I sued them and I agreed to a settlement one week before the trial was to begin. I did so for several reasons: because the perpetrators had been removed, because other victims had come forward, and I got a written admission of guilt included in the language of my settlement. So for the reporters in this room, my abuse was not "alleged."
That's enough about my own personal experiences. There is more. You should know there is always more, but I would like to move on to discuss what our local group has been up to.
Here in Minnesota, our SNAP chapter has been meeting for just under one year and I would like to highlight a few of our accomplishments:
1) MNSNAP has developed a resource library of more than 80 titles, various periodicals, and other current literature.
2) MNSNAP, in conjunction with Survivors Network Minnesota, hosted two survivor conferences in swift succession at the beginning of this year. More than three hundred participants attended the events.
3) MNSNAP sent three of members to lead workshops at the first SNAP National Assembly in St. Louis, in June.
4) MNSNAP members have been a visible force at the Minnesota State Capitol as we worked to affect changes in our civil statute of limitations relating to sexual abuse. Members have provided testimony when needed and contacted our lawmakers individually.
5) MNSNAP members have fielded hundreds of phone calls and e-mails from victims reaching out at the local level, statewide, and nationally. As the survivor liaison, I have personally spoken with over 200 victims. When a newly identified victim calls me, it is my policy to listen until they are done speaking. Generally, that means a minimum of two hours. On Monday of this week when I was the busiest with my daughter's funeral arrangements, I took six of those calls, and then an hour with someone who is planning an upcoming radio program.
6) MNSNAP members have appeared on television and radio to discuss the issues of sexual abuse.
7) MNSNAP has been working on meeting with Archbishop Harry Flynn, and though unsuccessful to date, will continue to approach his office in the hope of beginning a collaborative dialogue between church officials and those who have been hurt.
8) MNSNAP, like its affiliate chapters around the United States, is focused on self-help and healing and will continue to do so.
For the next few moments, I would like to present what I call our local Litany of Abuse. Keep I mind that what you will hear is only a sampling of the phone calls I have fielded as the survivor liaison and only a glimpse at what has occurred in this state.
Litany of Abuse
1) We have girls who have been abused by nuns.
As you make your decision to form a VOTF chapter here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, you might wonder how you can help survivors locally. I have a rather lengthy list of suggestions which I will pass along to your organizers, but I would like to highlight a few of them:
1) Go to snapnetwork.org and register so you can receive updates that will help you with information regarding this very large issue.
2) Help us with you checkbook. Locally, we are having a fundraiser and I have tickets to "Teddy Bear Appreciation Night at the Saint Paul Saints." Or you can make a contribution that will help us continue to expand our resource library for survivors, or write a check that can be used to send some of our members to the next national assembly to be held in Denver nest year.
3) Invite us to your microphones as you have so generously done so this evening, and invite us to your pulpits. When we speak, we heal. When we prepare our thought to share with others, we begin to organize our healing.
4) Help us get SNAP meeting schedules and contact information in all parish bulletins, on all church websites, in diocesan publications and diocesan websites.
5) Rethink overnight requirements for youth activities in our parishes. If you still find value in them, make absolutely certain there are safeguards in place.
6) Accommodate survivors who wish to maintain their traditional worship ties, but may struggle because a particular ritual is triggering. Ask then how they can be made more comfortable. Anyone of you would likely go out of their way to accommodate an alcoholic attending a party in your home and would provide appropriate refreshments. Please treat our members equally well when they attend our houses of worship.
7) If you want to discuss Article 5 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, I have no problem with wanting to restore the good name of someone who has been wrongly accused, but please, please ask our hierarchy what they intend to do about restoring the good names of all the victims who have brought them very credible evidence, and have lost their good names in their homes, in their families, in their communities and in their places of employment.
8) When you are looking for priests of integrity to support, judge whether they have been as willing as survivors to put their reputations on the line to speak out against evil. Ask them to know the histories of their parishes and if a known abuser has served there, ask them to visibly and actively seek out all who might have been hurt.
When I look out at this crowd of people before me this evening, I see the concerned faces of people of faith. Hold on to that! But most of all have hope!
Thank you for your kind attention this evening."
Original material copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.