Advocate warns on church's silence strategy
BARBARA Blaine launched her advocacy group for clergy sex abuse victims from the walk-in closet in her Chicago bedroom in 1988, with a membership of one. Today she is president of the world's biggest victims' advocacy group, with 12,000 members in 56 countries.
One of the hardest parts of that journey was losing her naivety about the professedly good intentions of the Catholic hierarchy towards victims, which she believes disguised a hostile strategy to silence them.
But the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has brought profound benefits, too. ''One part of healing is tied to preventing future abuse. I'll never know what my life would have been like if I hadn't been raped as a child - I feel helpless. But if we can prevent another 12-year-old being raped we feel we have a mission.''
Ms Blaine came to Melbourne at SNAP's expense to give evidence to the state inquiry into how the churches handled child sex abuse. Her most heartfelt advice was not to take church officials at their word.
Recent inquiries in Ireland and the US demonstrate how promised reform didn't happen, she says. After a Philadelphia grand jury report in 2005 church officials promised many reforms, but a 2011 grand jury found there were 37 predator priests still working in that one diocese.
''It's not like one or two, or even a dozen, which would have been shocking. It showed you couldn't trust church officials because this is how they are directed to behave by the Vatican. It is the practice and policy of church officials across the globe,'' Ms Blaine said.
At the first SNAP gathering in a down-mark...