Survivors seek meeting with Ken Feinberg about compensation programs

A support group for clergy abuse victims want a voice in compensation programs being set up by California Catholic officials.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing to the firm headed by Ken Feinberg requesting the opportunity to meet soon regarding church-designed and run compensation programs, like the one announced yesterday by six other California dioceses.

The group is critical of any process designed to support and help survivors that does not also include survivor input and experiences. “Let us share our experiences to help create a program that will benefit survivors instead of hurt them,” SNAP says in their letter.

SNAP plans to write soon to the other six California bishops who have already announced the outlines of such a program. They are Los Angeles, Fresno, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and Sacramento. The Diocese of Santa Rosa has also announced plans for their own compensation program. The remaining five dioceses that have not yet announced plans are Oakland, San Jose, Monterey, Stockton and San Francisco.

A copy of SNAP’s letter is below:

Dear Mr. Feinberg,

We are advocates and survivors of clergy sex abuse. We organize to support others who have experienced abuse and advocate for change that will protect children and help victims of sexual abuse heal.

We have recently learned about the proposed compensation program you are helping church officials at six of the twelve California dioceses design. We write to you today to urge you to include survivors in this process as you work out the details of this proposed program.

In the past, many survivors in our network have leapt at the opportunity presented by compensation programs, believing that participation in the program will lead to a validation of their abuse, a heartfelt apology, and a chance at justice. And all too often, those survivors have come away feeling like little more than variables in a calculation, with the compensation program being less of a healing process and more of an algorithmic one. Critically, in some of these cases survivors have even been barred from bringing cases against their abuser forward or made to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Given this history, we respectfully submit that the same Catholic hierarchy that got us into this mess is now paying to get themselves out of this mess, with the real intent of continuing to cover up their own past and present complicity. And those prelates got us into this mess, in part, by reserving all the decision-making power to themselves, which they're now replicating by hiring your team and designing these programs with apparently little or no input from experienced survivor organizations like ours.

So we plead with you and ask that you and your team meet with us soon, before any more of these programs are devised, and let us share with you how survivors might best be served – and not be re-victimized – by these plans. We have, unfortunately, too much experience in this arena. Let us share our experiences to help create a program that will benefit survivors instead of hurt them.

We have no illusions of stopping top-down, church-run compensation programs. But they can be better designed to make sure the needs of survivors, both long term and short term, are met. And they can be designed to better expose wrongdoers and thus deter wrongdoers in the future.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

****

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member (dmcnevin@aol.com, 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP California (caljoey1@aol.com, 925-262-3699) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator, (msakoda@snapnetwork.org, 925-708-6175), Esther Hatfield Miller, SNAP Los Angeles (562-673-9442, estherhatfield@yahoo.com), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(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 SNAPnetwork.org)


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