In August 2014 I attended the 25th Anniversary of the Survivor’s Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP http://www.snapnetwork.org/). I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have attended many conferences about sexual abuse but they were all by professional counselors and researchers for counselors. SNAP is run by survivors for survivors.
At the conference I found myself sitting in a huge room filled with people who had been abused as I had been as a child or had supporters. Everyone had their story.
A real surprise for me, (and they had both kept this a secret) was meeting Barb Anderson and Kerry Louderback Wood. Even though we were the only ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses there, everyone knew who we were.
While SNAP was originated by survivors of sexual abuse by priests, they have broadened that to include members of other religions that – rather than help survivors – actually protect the abusers.
The SNAP Mission Statement says:
Our most powerful tool is the light of truth.
Through our actions, we bring healing, prevention and justice.
SNAP is an independent, confidential network of survivors of religious sexual abuse and their supporters who work to:
Protect the vulnerable:
We expose predators and those who shield them. We build policies and practices within secular and religious organizations that protect children now and in the future.
Heal the wounded:
We share our stories and empower others to confront the truth. Together, we find healthy mechanisms for healing.
Prevent the abuse:
We educate ourselves and our communities about the effects of abuse. We speak in a unified voice to bring about change by exposing the malignant actions of abusive religious ministers and the church officials who shield them.
In order to achieve this mission, SNAP will:
- Build a continually expanding world-wide network of chapters united under the SNAP banner and website.
- Recruit and train a flourishing team of staff members, volunteers, leaders and activists who will form an insurmountable force for recovery and change
- Expose predators across the globe and ensure that they are never placed in positions where they can abuse again
- Demand and achieve legal justice, working with others to ensure criminal and civil success in all cases of religious abuse
- Change laws or legal practices that obstruct justice or protect predators
- Hold church institutions answerable for enabling abuse and shielding predators
True to their mission they have worked tirelessly to not only expose the sexual abuse problem within the Catholic Church but they now welcome people from many different groups. One night Bar, Kerry and I had dinner with two women from different religions. I was sitting beside one of the women and our stories were so similar it was as if we had the same mother and had both come from the same religion that chose to cover the abuse up.
Over the last 25 years Snap has been slowly building to widening their reach to help all those who have been abused within a religious group and then subsequently had the abuse covered up and often the victim being blamed for causing a problem by speaking out about it. But they have not let that stop them.
There have been setbacks but those didn’t stop them either. They have learned. They have had patience. They have had to sometimes even wait for a Pope or two to die or resign.
Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses can learn a great deal from the lessons that the people at SNAP can offer to us. My hope is that we can find projects to work on together that are mutually beneficial.