SAINT JOHN - A man who says he was sexually abused as a child is setting up a support group to help abuse survivors.
Dave Mantin is working to set up a local chapter of SNAP, which stands for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. It would be the first SNAP group in the Maritimes.
"It will be in a group therapy setting, and they'll be able to share with each other how they were able to get through it," Mantin said.
He has been sending out emails and already has 47 "new complainants" who would be interested in joining the group, he said. Of those, 38 have not reported the instances of abuse to police, he said.
"No guy wants to talk about being sexually molested," he said. "That's the stigma I'd like to change."
Like many abuse victims, Mantin has suffered with alcohol and drug addictions. He found sobriety with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. He said he has had three heart attacks from stress.
But he hopes the support group will help others find some form of solace. He's working with counsellors at Ridgewood Addiction Services, and he's hoping other social workers may volunteer their time for the group. He is also looking for financial donations to keep the group running.
"The more people see the name out there, the more safe these people are going to feel about coming to us and giving them the help they need," he said.
He will also encourage victims to report the crimes to police and the church. All meetings will be held confidentially, in unlisted locations and closed to the public.
Sgt. Joe Oliver, head of the family protection unit for the Saint John Police Force, said any form of victim advocacy is good.
"If getting together to talk about what has happened creates healing among victims, I think that's a great thing," he said.
"If it causes people to come forward to report to police, again, it's a good thing."
But Oliver cautioned it's important not to consider all priests as suspects.
He also said it's very difficult for child abuse victims to come forward.
"This topic is very private, so it's very difficult to have victims come forward and identify they have been a victim of sexual abuse, either recent or past," he said. "In a lot of cases, they don't want anyone to know."
A date for the first meeting of the local SNAP chapter has not yet been determined. Anyone interested can contact Mantin at email@example.com, at 1-888-241-0095 or 506-214-2131.