"A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares." Debi Mazar link
This is a long overdue thank you note to the organization known as SNAP (Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests.) No one associated with the organization had any warning that I was going to write this post nor did I run this article by them before posting it at TWW. I have been meaning to do this for the longest while. Sadly, I waited until SNAP was hit by a lawsuit that I believe is unjust.
SNAP is accused of taking kickbacks by a fired, former employee.
The Chicago Tribune reported in Ex-worker sues priest sex-abuse victims advocacy group, says it exploited survivors:
According to a lawsuit filed this week in Cook County Circuit Court, Gretchen Rachel Hammond worked as a director of development from July 2011 until she said she was fired in February 2013, shortly after asking superiors whether SNAP was referring potential clients to attorneys in exchange for donations.
In addition to the organization, defendants named in the lawsuit are Barbara Blaine, its founder and president; David Clohessy, executive director; and Barbara Dorris, outreach director.
Blaine said in a statement that "the allegations are not true."
The whistleblower claims that SNAP exploits survivors, a claim I say is utter codswallop, and I shall offer my own experience as a counterpoint. According to Religion News in Longtime leader of clergy victims group leaves as SNAP faces lawsuit:
The lawsuit by Gretchen Rachel Hammond names Clohessy and other SNAP leaders as defendants and alleges that “SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors – it exploits them.”
“In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church. These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.”
The NY Daily News posted Nonprofit took kickbacks instead of helping priests' sex abuse victims, lawsuit claims. The ex employee, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, claims that SNAP was involved in making money for themselves by taking kickbacks from lawyers.
The lawsuit does not name any lawyers who gave money to the group.
But Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has represented victims of clergy sex abuse in the past, said he has made donations to the organization.
“I have supported SNAP and a lot of other organizations that help survivors throughout the country, unapologetically,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
“The allegation is explosive because it’s unethical,” he continued. “I’ve never done it, nor would I ever do it.”
What are the SNAP financials?
The nonprofit group’s most recent disclosure to the IRS says it had just over $100,000 in net assets at the close of 2014. At the time, Clohessy was receiving a salary of $86,000, as was president Barbara Blaine.
Compare that with Franklin Graham and other celebrity religious leaders.
Who is Grace Hammond and what does she want?
According to the Catholic News, Kickbacks for suing the Church? Lawsuit claims major misbehavior at SNAP, we learn that:
The suit claims that when Hammond attempted to confront superiors about the practices, they engaged in retaliation resulting in the firing. Now, the lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and other relief.
Hammond, who identifies as a transgender woman, is currently a journalist for the Chicago LGBT newspaper the Windy City Times.
CNA contacted attorneys for Hammond but did not receive comment by deadline.
According to The Boston Globe in Suit alleges anti-clergy sex abuse group got kickbacks from lawyers, Hammond claims that her stress over the SNAP situation led to weight gain…
The lawsuit says that, at the time SNAP was colluding with attorneys to raise funds, it “never reached out to, or communicated with, grief counselors or rape counselors for the purpose of providing counseling to survivors.”
At one point, the lawsuit says, SNAP “concocted a scheme” to conceal donations from attorneys by encouraging them to make donations to a “front foundation” called the Minnesota Center for Philanthropy, which in turn would make grants to SNAP.
The Globe could not find a charitable organization with that name but Hammond’s lawyer, Chicago attorney Bruce C. Howard, said it’s possible that plans to start the center never got off the ground. The existence of the alleged scheme, he said, is confirmed by documents retained by Hammond while working for SNAP.
The lawsuit says that after Hammond complained to SNAP officials about fund-raising with attorneys, SNAP officials retaliated, in part, by requiring her to make daily reports off her activities to Blaine. As a result, she suffered from stress that led to health problems, including high blood pressure and weight gain.
Hammond has started her own blog in which she touts herself as an award winning journalist.
Who is Barbara Blaine?
She is the founder of SNAP and a survivor herself. She had planned on retiring after 29 years at the helm. A restructuring of the group had been underway with a planned move from Chicago to St Louis.
Blaine founded SNAP in 1988, according to the organization’s website, which says it is the nation’s oldest and largest self-help organization for victims of clergy sexual abuse.
A survivor of assault herself, Blaine first began holding SNAP meetings in a homeless shelter she ran in Chicago. She told NBC 5 that she made the decision to resign because it’s "time for a break."
"I've been doing this for 29 years," she said, adding that "there’s no right time" to step down."
Who is David Clohessy?
David was the spokesman for the SNAP as well as being a survivor of abuse. He, too, had been planning on leaving SNAP prior to the allegations raised by Hammond. It is important to understand that this organization has been around for 29 years and plans had been underway for some time to change the governance structure as well as the location of the organization.
David Clohessy is the former St. Louis, Missouri-based national director and spokesman for the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the largest and oldest self-help group for victims of clergy molestation in the United States.
Clohessy has been widely quoted by news organizations covering the sex abuse scandal, including the New York Times, and he has appeared on numerous television shows, including Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Phil Donahue Show, and 60 Minutes.
Clohessy has publicly stated he was the victim of sexual abuse by a priest during his teenage years (from 1969-1973).
Clohessy struggled with the fact that his brother, Father Kevin Clohessy (who has since left the priesthood voluntarily), also had eventually "a credible accusation" against him for being inappropriate sexually while a priest.
Who is Barbara Dorris?
It appears that Barbara will remain with the organization as it transitions.
Barbara Dorris is the victims managing director for SNAP. As a teacher in her parish school, she caught a parish priest molesting children and unsuccessfully tried to have him removed. When church officials were recalcitrant, she came to SNAP for help. In 2002, she began working as a full time volunteer with SNAP and joined the staff two years later. In her work with SNAP, she has helped hundreds of survivors across the world and works closely with local SNAP leaders in the US (and increasingly, SNAP leaders overseas).
Dorris is herself a survivor of childhood clergy abuse who has six grown children and five grandchildren.
Who is Jeff Anderson?
Jeff Anderson & Associates pioneered the use of civil litigation to seek justice for survivors of child sexual abuse and is recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms to represent survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Widely recognized as one of the most prolific and successful litigators of clergy sexual abuse cases against churches and other institutions, Jeff Anderson & Associates has handled priest abuse cases in numerous states throughout the nation.
According to CNN One lawyer behind many allegations of Catholic Church abuse:
For decades, Anderson has won settlements from Catholic archdioceses across the country for abuse victims and, more than any other attorney in the country, has driven American media coverage of the church abuse scandal.
Now, with the church abuse crisis embroiling Europe for the first time and raising questions about whether the pope himself did enough to respond to church abuse, Anderson is employing novel legal tactics in an attempt to take his campaign all the way to the Vatican.
"I'm getting far more aggressive because all roads are leading to Rome," Anderson, 62, said last Thursday, after filing suit against the Vatican on behalf of the alleged Wisconsin abuse victim.
"I'm pessimistic that the Vatican is capable of changing itself but I'm optimistic that external pressure will," Anderson said. "We're at a tipping point.
The CNN article states:
"But Anderson's critics say that last week's suit against the Vatican, along with much of his other work, is aimed more at attracting publicity than getting justice."
And this is where I come in right after introducing Amy Smith.
Who is Amy Smith
Besides being a fellow "Daughter of Stan," Amy is the DFW SNAP volunteer. That means she gets no money, critics! The Deebs and Amy have collaborated on a number of posts which involve child sex abuse. Some of you may remember the infamous Village Church scandal. This woman puts it all on the line for child sex abuse victims. She writes over at Watch Keep and we consider her a dear friend.
Why I honor Barbara Blaine, David Clohessy, Barbara Dorris, Jeff Anderson and Amy Smith and why I do not buy Gretchen Rachel Hammond's allegations.
Let the Deebs take your back to the time frame leading up to the start of this blog in 2009. In 2006, Dee's former church was rocked by the arrest of a Southeastern Seminary student who had been molesting young teen boys at Dee's former church. You can read the ugly details of Doug Goodrich's arrest and subsequent conviction the following year. There were approximately 13 boys who were sickeningly molested. I truly mean that. If anyone wants to know the details of the extent of the molestation, we would be happy to oblige, offline. Neither of us has ever fully recovered from the descriptions of the abuse at the hands of this horrible man.
We had a credible report from one of the boys and his family that the church had been aware of complaints of Goodrich's sexualized behavior one year prior to the arrest. A group of us called for a church investigation into the reasons why no action was taken on the part of the church.
We will be featuring a post by a remarkable young woman who was friends with these boys. She will describe why it caused her to walk away from the church for a number of years.
Sadly, the church leadership responded in the way one might expect, given that the lead pastor was on the council of The Gospel Coalition and considered CJ Mahaney a friend. They went for our jugular and claimed no reports of any sort were ever received by the leadership. We had a recording in which one pastor admitted to knowing about the initial report, but we were chastised for recording his admission (legal in North Carolina.)
The church went after us. We heard sermons in which the pastor accused this group of having *malice of forethought*, a lovely legal term. On one Sunday, the pastors had the congregation come forward and kneel at the altar to pray that God would take away their hatred for those working to bring to light the truth of the matter. The lovely leadership even placed a lawyer on the investigative team and told us that she was a victim advocate and neglected to mention the "lawyer" word. Thank God for Google.
As the pressure began to build, I have to admit that I was worried since legalese seemed to rule the day. So, I made the best decision of my life in this matter. I contacted SNAP. Here was a woman with nothing to offer them – no money, no victims, no nothing. Just a woman who wanted to do the right thing and expose the truth.
Over the course of several conversations, (I had the chance to talk with both Barbaras and David at one time or another), they reassured me that I had handled the situation appropriately. They even offered to fly in and host a protest in front of my former church! Once again, they would fly in at their expense, put themselves up and protest on behalf of the victims and their advocates.
Then, they did something that still brings me to tears. They gave my name and number to Jeff Anderson. Jeff promptly called me on his way home from work one night. He offered me advice on a number of fronts. He told me that he was surprised that it was those whose children were not hurt who were leading the effort and that he wanted to support us.
Then, I asked him a question that would change the course of my life. "Can I blog about this and can I get sued for doing so?" Jeff launched into an explanation of why I could blog about what happened. He told me to always tell the truth from my perspective and to never make up any sort of allegations. That was the day I learned about the freedom that we have in the US to pursue and expose the truth.
He then said something that drove me to tears. He said if I followed what he said to do and I got sued, he would be there for me and he gave me his cell phone number (not his office, his cell phone!) I still have it and have thankfully never had to use it.
But, I bet you might say, didn't you have access to all of those boys and wouldn't Anderson and SNAP benefit from your contact? The simple answer is "Nope." Without getting into lengthy details, it was rather clear from the beginning that a lawsuit on behalf of the victims in this situation would not be able to proceed. However, Jeff, Barbara, Barbara and David Clohessy spent time speaking with the victims, offering them support and recommendations for dealing with the aftermath of this situation.
SNAP, Amy Smith and Jeff Anderson kindly served all of us, and I will be forever grateful.
An offer from Dee to SNAP and Jeff Anderson:
If I can ever be of help by telling my story of the altruistic kindness that you showed to me, please let me know. This time, I am the one who will fly in at my own expense, put myself up, pay for my own Chicago style pizza and tell my story to lawyers, media or a jury. Just let me know. I will be there in a heartbeat.
I am eternally grateful to all of you. Let me end it with this. We all went to see the movie Spotlight. We caused a bit of commotion in the local movie theater. When SNAP was mentioned, we erupted in raucous applause which was noted by other attendees. We thank God for all that you do. Please know that you have your own faithful paparazzi in us!