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SNAP
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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

Statements from Female Abuse Victims on
Vatican Directive Against Gay Priests

 

December 2, 2005


Ann Hagan Webb, Ed.D., Psychologist
SNAP New England Co-coordinator
781-239-1182, 617-513-8442c

My name is Ann Hagan Webb. I was abused by a Roman Catholic Priest, Msgr. Anthony DiAngelis from kindergarten through 7th grade, beginning in 1957.

I stand here today with some other very courageous women. All of us have been telling the truth for some time, but it simply doesn’t seem to be news. Perhaps the public, Catholics, the Vatican, whoever - would like to continue to think that priests abused alter boys and somehow their daughters were safe. We’re here to dispel that myth. We were not safe. And homosexual orientation in our abusers had nothing to do with it.

You’ve heard the saying: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” We were abused as children and when we have spoken out we have been marginalized, ignored and basically made invisible. Whenever a new person innocently asks me “Wasn’t it all boys?” I SEE RED. It is not just about boys, it is not about gay priests. We are mad, furious! And we will be heard!

This week and so often in the past, we hear statistics spouted that 80% or 90% of the abuse victims were boys. How does that account for the fact that half of the 6000+ members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest, are female? Most of the hundreds of women I have met through SNAP were abused as children. The vast majority of adult female victims of priests (that we know are out there), are still alone in their pain and shame, assuming they would both not be believed, and certainly blamed.
Given that priests had more ready access to boys, a conservative estimate of the number of underage girls abused by priests is 30% of the underage victims, but the numbers could be as large as 50%. This “crisis in the church” might have looked very different if the first victims to come forward in 2002 were the victims of Fr. Kelly in Worcester, who admitted to abusing over 50 girls in one parish alone. He abused very young girls, ages 5, 7, 8. It had nothing to do with being gay or straight. He is a pervert and a criminal, and is in prison. Maybe other female victims would have done what the boys did – realized they weren’t alone, and found the courage to come forward.

This culture has a long history of blaming female victims whatever their age for the sexual abuse perpetrated on them. We must have been too seductive, too precocious, or too cute. Is it any wonder that we are less apt to come forward publicly, or to face legal action that might put us on the witness stand defending our virtue?

The sexual abuse crimes of Catholic priests were perpetrated by adult, supposedly celibate men against minor children and vulnerable adults. Sexual orientation was a non issue. All adults know and have known for generations that minors are off limits sexually. For priests, everyone is supposed to be off limits.

Barbara Blaine, the founder of SNAP has written a wonderful statement outlining the reasons women don’t come forward about the abuse. We will read excerpts from Barbara:
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Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago,
SNAP Founder and President
312 399 4747

Our hearts ache for the thousands of girls and women who have been sexually assaulted by clergy but who continue to suffer in shame, silence, and self-blame. The recent Vatican effort to shift blame for the horrific and on-going Catholic hierarchy's sex abuse crisis will only rub salt into the already deep and often still fresh wounds of girls and women who have been raped, sodomized and fondled by Catholic clerics.

It's very difficult for the victim of any sex crime to come forward. It's even harder when the perpetrator is a revered religious authority figure.

And it's especially hard when others claim or pretend that few people like you are victimized.

Catholic church officials insist on mischaracterizing and misdiagnosing this scandal, which makes the mishandling of vulnerable youngsters and wounded victims likely to continue. If one can't accurately describe a problem, one certainly can't solve it or prevent its recurrence.

We take issue with the bishops' claim that 80% of the victims of abusive clergy are male. First, this figure is based on a very flawed self-survey of bishops themselves. Second, we believe a disproportionate percentage of male victims report the crimes and are believed. Third, fully half of our 6,000+ members across the country are female. And finally, even if this 80% figure is correct, it may well reflect greater access to boys by priests rather than greater homosexuality among predators. (Many parents allowed their boys to go to the movies or on overnight trips with priests; few parents allowed their girls to do so.)

There are many reasons for why male victims are more apt to report, be believe, be taken seriously, and get more attention. Among them:

1) Girls and women often wisely fear being blamed for their abuse. (Few male victims are ever asked "Well, what were you wearing at the time?" or "Were you physically well-developed for your age?"

2) Some parents are more outraged and motivated to action when their son is raped rather than their daughter.

3) Girls and women are often subtly urged to deal with their pain privately. Boys and men are often urged to deal with their pain by taking some form of action.

4) To some in our society and the media, male-on-male sex (consensual or non-consensual, legal or illegal) is seen as inherently more salacious and "newsworthy."

Innocent children and vulnerable adults are safe only when predators are exposed. Predators are exposed only when we create a supportive climate that encourages victims to speak up. That climate, however, doesn't happen when church officials keep blame-shifting and finger-pointing, and minimizing the risk and harm to half of the members of the church.

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Statement by Kathleen M. Dwyer
SNAP Member, Boston
617-282-7551 or 781-724-3015

Good Morning. My name is Kathy Dwyer and I was sexually, ritually and spiritually abused between the ages of 5 and 8 by a priest and two members of the Knights of Columbus. For the record, I was also sexually abused by my father who was also the one who brought me to the church to be abused. I am just one of countless women who were abused as girls and who the hierarchy of Catholicism wants the public to think do not exist, who the hierarchy of Catholicism wants desperately to make invisible, and who the hierarchy of Catholicism is once again, willing to sacrifice.

I first came forward in Feb. of 2002 because everything I heard and read was about male survivors and I knew, both personally and professionally, that there were many women who had also been abused. I also knew that women face different risks, prejudices and obstacles in telling than do men. I found out that women were speaking out but being deemed not as newsworthy, which in and of itself, speaks volumes as to the cultural acceptance of the sexual abuse of girls and women.

Different groups of people face different risks, prejudices and obstacles in not only telling about being sexually abused but in being believed. Haven't any of you ever wondered where the survivors of color are? The hierarchy of Catholicism knows our culture well and is skillful in manipulating prejudices and fears. It uses them not only to exonerate themselves and preserve their power but to support their agenda in the secular community as well. Since 2002 when their own documents revealed the horror the hierarchy had both supported and perpetrated, they denied, rationalized and/or minimized what they did by blaming other people, places and things for what they are responsible for. We've all heard their claims -- "it was the Sixties" or "It's just Catholic bashing again" or "It's the homosexuals."

Rather than role modeling a moral, supportive and loving way to address sexual abuse, the hierarchy, from the Pope on down, continues to cover up and blame others in order to protect themselves, their power and their money. But now, they are more focused and have settled on blaming Gays for all the abuse, even though countless studies indicate that most child molesters are heterosexual[1] and/or are characterized as fixated -- being attracted to children, not to men or women.

In order to be successful in blaming Gays, the hierarchy knows that the sexual abuse of girls must be swept into invisibility and be internalized in the culture as a "rare exception." Something it has been doing since 2002. It should then not be a surprise to anyone that they ultimately decided to scapegoat Gays for what they are responsible for. By doing so they are able to "kill two birds with one stone" because if they can get the public at large to believe their lies about who was abused and what it is to be Gay, which helped create the myths, their chances of banning same gender marriages will also be increased.

This behavior by those who claim moral authority of our culture must be stopped. All people of faith should be outraged, scared and ashamed of what the hierarchy of Catholicism is doing. We must recognize that it is not enough for us to just raise our consciousness, we must also raise our consciences and stop allowing a corrupt organization that so disrespectfully uses God to dictate what is right or wrong. While I know child molesters are thrilled with their behavior, we must not be silent and let this go on. We must speak out our truth and reality loudly and often -- because we hopefully have all learned by now, as Audre Lorde so powerfully said in her essay The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action[2]. "My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you."

Thank You.

Kathleen M. Dwyer

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[1] Dr. Carole Jenny reviewed 352 medical charts, representing all of the sexually abused children seen in the emergency room or child abuse clinic of a Denver children's hospital during a one-year period (from July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1992). The molester was a gay or lesbian adult in only 2 of the 269 cases in which an adult molester could be identified -- fewer than 1% (Jenny et al., 1994).

[2] Sister Outsider; Lorde, Audre; The Crossing Press; Freedom, CA;1984


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
 


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