Advocate warns on church’s silence strategy

The Age

November 27, 2012

Barney Zwartz

BARBARA Blaine launched her advocacy group for clergy sex abuse victims from the walk-in closet in her Chicago bedroom in 1988, with a membership of one. Today she is president of the world’s biggest victims’ advocacy group, with 12,000 members in 56 countries.

One of the hardest parts of that journey was losing her naivety about the professedly good intentions of the Catholic hierarchy towards victims, which she believes disguised a hostile strategy to silence them.

But the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has brought profound benefits, too. ”One part of healing is tied to preventing future abuse. I’ll never know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been raped as a child – I feel helpless. But if we can prevent another 12-year-old being raped we feel we have a mission.”

Ms Blaine came to Melbourne at SNAP’s expense to give evidence to the state inquiry into how the churches handled child sex abuse. Her most heartfelt advice was not to take church officials at their word.

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