Silence about Sexual Abuse Is What a Spokane Group Wants to End with a Message of Openness in Many Eastern Washington Communities

By Stephen Mercer
The Star [Grand Coulee WA]
Downloaded June 12, 2003

To encourage people to talk, SNAP Spokane Chapter co-coordinator Molly Harding said, they come to communities and distribute fliers with pictures of priests accused of sexual abuse.

The campaign to help reach out to victims has proved successful, Ross said, with four people coming forward due to the flyers.

"We're trying to have victims come forward and talk," said Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Spokane Chapter co-coordinator Mike Ross.

SNAP plans to be at Grand Coulee's St. Henry's Catholic Church in upcoming weeks.

SNAP wants to help those who survived the abuse to come forward and talk about the impact on their lives, to help them heal, Harding said.

Ross said the easiest thing people can do is stay silent, because the shame and guilt they feel prevents them from speaking out.

But that could lead to suicide, he said. He knows of four people who have committed suicide due to priest abuse. They are hurting themselves, not the priests by not stepping forward, he said.

Harding said in recent years, several changes have compelled more people to come forward.

The length of time allowed by law between the abuse and when a lawsuit can be filed, or statute of limitations, has increased. She said the focus of priest abuse on the Catholic Diocese in Boston has also helped people feel more comfortable in coming forward.

Ross said the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, which as of last week has seven different sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it from 28 people, has not done enough.

He said the Diocese contends it's doing all it can, but they are only maintaining the status quo.

That's hurting SNAP, Ross said, because people believe the Diocese is doing enough.

The Diocese states that it offers counseling to victims who said they were sexually abused by a priest.

Both Harding and Ross, who volunteer their time for SNAP, said they were sexually abused by priests when they were younger.

Ross said the priest who abused him also abused 21 other boys. Harding said it took her three decades to come forward with the details.

Harding said there are about 5,000 people in the organization around the country.

SNAP meets twice a month in Spokane.

Ross said he can be reached any time at (509) 701-4720. Harding's phone number is (509) 991-8834 or (509)-466-1877. She can usually be reached Wednesday through Friday or e-mailed at

In the Grand Coulee Dam area, David Schmidt, a member of SNAP, can be contacted at 633-2908.


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