The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is one option for childhood sexual abuse survivors to get help. Children who were abused by an authority figure often do not fully understand the gravity of the abuse until adulthood. By acknowledging this reality, SNAP acts as a resource to connect adults with others having similar experiences. The group also works to move new legislation forward to end childhood sexual abuse.
What Is SNAP?
SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is one of several non-profit organizations dedicated to supporting survivors of childhood sexual assault. Founded in 1988 by survivor Barbara Blaine, the group leverages the power of numbers to connect survivors and expose perpetrators. It aims to provide information, connections, and a road to recovery for the thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by religious and other leaders. Led by specially-trained volunteers and a board of directors, the organization seeks to be a force for social change to stop childhood sexual abuse and institutional cover-ups worldwide.
How SNAP Is Supporting Survivors and Their Families
SNAP has a network serving 30,000 survivors in 60 countries. Its main goal is to connect survivors from all faiths and secular groups to help them overcome their trauma and share their stories. Over the last 30 years, SNAP has concentrated its efforts on five core areas:
- Connecting survivors with support groups, one-on-one conversations, and resources;
- Exposing abusers and the institutions that shelter them from prosecution;
- Raising community awareness through outreach and education;
- Advocating for stricter laws and regulations to keep children from harm; and
- Preventing rape and sexual assault.
The Network helps the many survivors recognize and understand the abuse they endured. The group hopes to empower survivors to reclaim their lives and end future abuse by bringing the abuse to light.
Since its inception, SNAP has sought to connect individual survivors with others having similar experiences. Knowing that survivors live with shame, guilt, and pain, SNAP provides individual peer counseling and telephone and e-mail communication.
Additionally, survivors can access resources through SNAP’s social media pages on Facebook and Twitter. SNAP has also partnered with NPR’s StoryCorps to record and share over 90,000 survivors’ stories.
SNAP’s primary focus is connecting survivors with support groups that meet in person or virtually. California offers a state-wide video conference and several local groups, including a bilingual Spanish-speaking group. Additionally, you can find a group for specific religions or backgrounds, including:
- Orthodox Christian,
- Ritual Abuse,
- Missionary Kids,
- Abused by Women Religious,
- Abused as an Adult, or
- Boy Scouts.
SNAP also sponsors groups exclusively for men, women, and LGBTQ+. Families of survivors also have a dedicated support group. In the words of some survivors, SNAP connected them with someone who knew what they were going through. It offered them a safe place to tell their story and hear the story of others. It provided a lifeline when there was precious little other support to be found.
To join a support group, you can contact the volunteer coordinator or visit the website.
Exposing Abusers Through Legal Justice
SNAP aims to expose abusers via two legal avenues:
- Lobbying for and supporting anti-abuse legislation and
- Assisting survivors in pursuing criminal and civil charges.
SNAP leverages its numbers and financial supporters to influence lawmakers to pass laws that support justice. It works to amend antiquated, predator-friendly policies that threaten children, reform statute of limitations laws, and mandate state investigations.
Most recently, it supported the passing of California Assembly Bill 218 in 2019. The bill opened a window for survivors to file civil suits against abusers and organizations, regardless of when the abuse occurred.
SNAP also offers resources and direction for survivors to pursue criminal charges and file civil lawsuits. California law criminalizes sexual activities when both parties do not explicitly consent. By testifying in criminal trials, survivors can secure justice by imposing fines or putting the abuser in jail.
On the other hand, a civil trial against an abuser or institution can have other results. As part of settlements, survivors have forced churches to release their personnel files. The files reveal patterns of covering up abuse and enabling faith leaders to continue in ministry. Such lawsuits force institutions to face the stories of abuse and account for the harm they contributed to.
Providing Education and Resources to the Community
In addition to direct support to survivors, SNAP also helps warn parents, parishioners, and the public about dangerous men and women who commit or hide abuse. It offers education and resources to people in academia, counseling, journalism, medicine, and law enforcement. SNAP provides education to help professionals understand clergy sex crimes and cover-ups to better support survivors and end ongoing abuse.
How Can Survivors Access SNAP Resources?
The best way to access SNAP resources is through their website, snapnetwork.org. You can find the toll-free hotline number, contact information for support group leaders, and other resources, blogs, and guides. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many support groups have gone virtual, making it easier than ever to access peer support. The website also offers the contact information for each state’s survivor assistance office and attorney general to report your abuse to law enforcement. You can also reach SNAP through Facebook or Twitter.
Boucher LLP: Attorney Resources for Survivors
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests can connect you with others to help you reckon with the lifelong trauma of childhood sexual abuse. Additionally, part of your recovery may involve filing a civil lawsuit. When you’re ready to seek justice, Boucher LLP can help. Our attorneys have experience with complex litigation and childhood sexual abuse claims. Let us handle the legal details, including collecting evidence and finding the leaders responsible for the abuse. You deserve to reclaim control of your life. Contact us online or call us today, and we will meet you with compassion and understanding to help you on your road to recovery.