Sex Abuse Chapter Formed

By Bill Zajac
Springfield Union-News [Springfield MA]
March 27, 2003

A national organization that provides support to victims of clergy sexual abuse has formed a Springfield chapter and scheduled its first three meetings

The new chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) will meet April 2 and 23 and May 21 at 7 p.m. Started in 1989 in Chicago, the organization now has about 30 chapters.

Meeting sites are not made public to enhance the sense of safety for survivors, who often struggle to trust others. The sites can be learned by contacting chapter coordinator Peter Pollard of Hatfield at (413) 247-3271 or via e-mail through the organization's Web site.

"There are many survivors of clergy sexual abuse in this area who have struggled in isolation for years, believing they were the only ones who were abused by a clergy member," said Pollard.

"They've experienced shame, self-blame, failures in relationships and a loss of faith. In many cases, victims have turned to alcohol or drugs to quell the pain of a betrayal by someone they trusted with their souls," he said.

In the past year or so, at least 35 people filed complaints with the Misconduct Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and 17 others have filed civil suits alleging sexual abuse by priests within the diocese.

David A. Lewcon of Webster, an organization coordinator, anticipates the new chapter drawing people from as far south as Hartford and as far north as New Hampshire and Vermont.

Meetings are held once or twice a month. Anonymity is required. "What is said there, stays there. The meetings are open only to clergy sexual abuse victims and people who support them," Lewcon said.

As many as 50 percent of those who attend meetings are female, Lewcon and others say. "It is not a strictly male problem," he said.

Priests and nuns who have been abused have attended meetings, but are required to not to wear clothing that identifies them as clergy, Lewcon said.

Pollard, 51, said he was abused by his eastern Massachusetts parish priest in the 1960s, he said. Bill Zajac can be reached at


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