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Published on March 26, 2012 in the Gallup Independent:
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
ALBUQUERQUE — A new, online support network for clergy sex abuse survivors is being formed to assist survivors from New Mexico, Northern Arizona and Native American communities.
The group, Hope Heal Help, has a website — www.hopehealhelp.net — and is sponsoring two meetings in Albuquerque this week. One of the group’s organizers, Hank Estrada of Moriarty, talked about the goals of the group in a telephone interview Wednesday. Estrada, who said he is a survivor of both family sex abuse and clergy sex abuse, is the author of “UnHoly Communion — Lessons Learned from Life among Pedophiles, Predators, and Priests.”
“We’re starting from the ground up,” Estrada said of the group. “We’re helping ourselves out because we’re not getting help any other way.”
According to Estrada, Hope Heal Help is a grassroots, online volunteer network open to clergy sex abuse survivors, their partners and family members. It will offer safe, confidential and non-professional support to help individuals emotionally heal from their abuse and move on to live healthy and happy lives, he said.
“It doesn’t have to run your life,” Estrada said of sexual abuse. “You can put your energies elsewhere.”
The group formed after the recent death of former Santa Fe Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez, Estrada said. A number of clergy sex abuse survivors were dismayed to see many Catholic Church officials, lay people and even news media representatives heap praise on Sanchez while giving little recognition to the role Sanchez played in covering up sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and in his own personal life, he said.
However, Estrada said, the Hope Heal Help group is not affiliated with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. Although Estrada said he once volunteered as a SNAP representative and admires some of the work they’ve done, he said the members of Hope Heal Help are more interested in offering personal support for clergy sex abuse survivors rather than pursuing SNAP’s more confrontational tactics with institutional church leaders.
“Our interest is not in confronting the church. … In my opinion, that’s a waste of time,” Estrada said. “We need to focus on ourselves and how we can heal ourselves.”
Hope Heal Help will offer a free support and discussion group at 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at 609 Gold St. SE in downtown Albuquerque. The group is open to male and female clergy abuse survivors, their partners and supporters. Estrada said the group will use some meeting guidelines from 12 Step programs to insure that participants can respectfully share and listen in a safe and confidential manner. Individuals interested in attending are being asked to call or email in advance to confirm their attendance. The group is scheduled to meet on the last Wednesday of each month at the same time and location.
On Saturday, Estrada will be the featured speaker at a lecture and book signing at 10 a.m.-noon at the Hear Better, See Better store, located in the Cost Plus World Market shopping center, just west of Menaul and Carlisle. Estrada’s presentation, “Healing the Unspeakable: Life After Abuse,” will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a book signing. The event is open to anyone, but there is a $15 admission fee, which Estrada said will help cover the cost of renting the facility. Interested participants are also asked to confirm their attendance in advance via phone or email.
Estrada said he will discuss six steps that he believes contribute to healing from sexual abuse: researching sources, disclosing what happened, seeking appropriate counseling, finding support, volunteering to help others, and moving forward. Estrada will also have copies of “UnHoly Communion” for sale.
In his book, which he published in 2011, Estrada writes about the abuse he endured in his home and church. According to Estrada, he was sexually molested as a child for more than a decade by an uncle who lived with his family, and he was also emotionally and physically abused by a violent, alcoholic father. After high school, Estrada was accepted into a Catholic seminary for training into the priesthood. It was then, Estrada said, he was sexually assaulted in his sixth year of studies by the Rev. John Raab, a member of the Claretian Missionary Order who served as his spiritual director. Estrada then left the seminary and abandoned his goals of becoming a priest.
In the years since, Estrada said, he has learned that Raab subsequently supervised seminarians in India and Nigeria. Estrada said he eventually reported the abuse to the Claretian order and later outed Raab in his book. Estrada said he believes Raab has not been laicized, but his work as a priest has been significantly limited.
Information: www.hopehealhelp.net or email@example.com or Hank Estrada at (505) 515-8230
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