SNAP’s Reflection Points: 21 Things People Can Do to Prevent Abuse and Support Survivors

At the papal summit this week, Pope Francis presented 21 points for reflection. SNAP is about action, so instead we’re providing 21 steps that you can take to help prevent abuse, protect children, and support survivors:


  1. If you see something, say something! Report any suspected child sexual abuse to local law enforcement who are trained to investigate these cases. Here's a list of reporting hotlines you can use for every state in the US.

  2. Educate yourself about child sexual abuse. Learn more about warning signs for sexual abuse here and be prepared to make a report if anything seems wrong.

  3. Encourage open dialogue and don’t be afraid to talk about abuse. Ask all your children – including your adult children – if anything ever happened to them. 

  4. Talk to your children about sex abuse. Make sure children understand that you are always there to help and that if anything happens to them you will believe them and that it is not their fault. This resource can help.

  5. Encourage your friends and neighbors to learn about child sexual abuse. Educated communities are better able to prevent cases of abuse and intervene in ongoing cases.

  6. Be open to hearing about someone’s trauma. If someone tells you they were abused tell them “I am so sorry; I believe you; this isn’t your fault, how can I help you?”

  7. Invite survivors to share their stories at your church. The more that people are aware of sexual abuse, the more likely they are to get involved in prevention.

  8. Write letters to the editors about articles you see about abuse. Every article is an opportunity to educate others about prevention and protection.

  9. When you read an article about someone who was abused make a positive comment in the comment section. Victims read the comments and you can make them feel they made the right choice by speaking out.

  10. Donate to an organization that works to protect children. Non-profits rely on your donations to provide programs that support survivors and help prevent abuse. Support SNAP here.

  11. Work to abolish laws that protect predators, not children. Statutes of Limitations on child sexual abuse, both criminally and civilly, create barriers to prosecuting abusers and finding justice for survivors. Help abolish SOL backwards and forwards today.

  12. Support laws that support survivors. Mandatory reporting laws for clergy and “look back” windows are just two examples of laws that protect children and support survivors.

  13. Ask your Bishop/Cardinal to release all the files on child sexual cases to local law enforcement and publish lists online. Every step the church takes towards transparency is a right step.

  14. Write to your Attorney General asking for an investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic church. So far, 17 states have started this process: let’s get all 50 involved! You can use this letter template to make your outreach easier.

  15. If you are a survivor, report your abuse to the attorney general. This can help encourage AGs to open investigations or create programs to help prevent abuse. Find a listing of active investigations and hotlines here.

  16. Stay informed on what’s happening! Read articles on the AbuseTracker to keep informed of what is happening and how you can get involved to help.

  17. Volunteer your time to support survivors. Volunteering at a local Rape Crisis center or with an organization that works to with survivors can be valuable for you and helpful for survivors who need support.

  18. Attend a press event that SNAP hosts in your area. Just showing up and standing in solidarity with survivors helps them know they are supported and sends the message that everyone wants to stop abuse, not just survivors.

  19. If you are a survivor reach out for support. Silence is toxic, so join us and speak out. Support groups like these can help you heal!

  20. Read a book about the abuse crisis or watch a movie about the crisis. Books and films can help personalize the problem and let you gain a better understanding of the scope. Find suggestions here.

  21. Most importantly protect the children in your life by being educated and remaining vigilant. If each of us looks out for the children in our communities, we can play an active role in preventing sexual abuse.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

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  • Marti Williams
    commented 2019-03-05 21:40:13 -0600
    Thank you for this important information.
  • Carol Midboe
    commented 2019-03-05 14:29:10 -0600
    For survivors in rural and hard to reach areas Austin SNAP hosts a monthly video conference call on the second Monday of the month from 7PM to 8:30PM CST. Survivors and advocates can join the video conference or dial in by phone. Contact Carol Midboe at for more information.
  • Marti Williams
    commented 2019-02-25 08:46:12 -0600
    Thanks for the Survivors’ 21 points. They are an excellent starting point. Best for people living in larger communities, however. Should one be an abuse victim living on an isolated farm in say, for example, Kansas, it may all seem a bit overwhelming. Courage requires fertile soil in which to grow. It will be interesting to see what other Survivor groups—also international- contribute to our growth.

    And rather than leaving our Church, I believe that those of us who still retain our Faith should remain, changing it rather than leaving. Personally, it will most likely be a long time before I can even look at a cleric without feeling a severe case of nausea, but that doesn’t make me less a Catholic. Quite the contrary.
  • Michael Glavin
    commented 2019-02-24 19:33:29 -0600
    As someone who was pursued by priests during my childhood, I have to say I think this plan sucks. If you want to prevent sexual abuse by priests, you need to force them to change their culture. A 21 point plan is ridiculously too long. Three steps:

    1. Force a change in culture by eliminating the vow of chasitity, and encouraging priests to have normal sexual relationships. 2. Force a change in culture by reforming the misogynistic culture of the church: all positions open to all genders. 3. Force a change of culture by providing equal acees to the faith for all people, not just straight people and those willing to pretend to be straight.

    Short of that, I say to hell with the Catholic Church. I wish Catholics would leave the church en masse, cut off their money, and collapse the whole organziation. What’s left can join its rightful spot alongside the FLDS. Then normal Catholics could reorganize around values more inline with the teachings of Christ.

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