SNAP statement regarding the Gretchen Hammond’s recent lawsuit
Statement by Mary Ellen Kruger of St. Louis, MO, SNAP Volunteer Leader and Chairman of the SNAP Board of Directors - (314) 962-0964 cell, [email protected]
The past few weeks have been a difficult time for SNAP. Longtime friend and executive director David Clohessy has retired from SNAP, and inflammatory and untrue allegations have been made against SNAP in a lawsuit filed in Chicago, Illinois last week.
David Clohessy informed the SNAP Board of Directors in October, 2016 that it was his intention to resign from SNAP. His resignation was voluntary and was effective December 31, 2016. SNAP is grateful for the many years of dedication and hard work David has given victims of abuse worldwide. We would not be here today if it were not for David’s contributions. Unfortunately, the lawsuit containing false and inflammatory allegations filed last week by Gretchen Hammond has cast an unfair and undeserved pall on David’s resignation—a resignation that was submitted long before the lawsuit was filed.
I will also address some of Ms. Hammond’s allegations.
- SNAP is not and has never claimed to be a counseling organization. We are a volunteer-based, peer support network of survivors who help each other in support group meetings, over the phone, through the internet, in person, and through public events.
SNAPs support meetings are closed to non-survivors for privacy reasons. As a member of support staff and a non-survivor, Ms. Hammond’s presence at a meeting would be considered intrusive and a violation of the privacy rights of victims of abuse.
Ms. Hammond admitted that she had very little contact with SNAP leaders and was not given information about their activities. Her position was as a fund-raiser, not a support leader.
All of our peer support and public outreach is done by volunteers who are trained, connected, and supported by the main SNAP office.
All of our leaders’ contact numbers are public and are listed on the SNAP website. SNAP posts dozens of meeting times in 22 states for peer-to-peer survivor meetings that are facilitated by trained SNAP leaders. Ms. Hammonds’ allegation that SNAP has abandoned its survivor outreach work is highly uninformed, if not malicious and defamatory.
It is correct that victims of abuse are referred to attorneys in an effort to bring accountability to those that have condoned and perpetuated this abuse for decades. If abuse victims do not have the courage and the ability to fight back against the system, systemic abuse of authority would continue unabated.
Like all nonprofits, SNAP solicits and accepts donations from anyone who believes in our cause. This includes individuals from all walks of life. This has also included attorneys who have filed lawsuits against priests and “the system.” To be clear, SNAP has never and will never enter into any “kickback schemes” as alleged by Ms. Hammond in her lawsuit, nor has SNAP ever made donations an implied or express condition of the referral of victims.
Most people who have the opportunity to work with victims of abuse feel motivated to help support and to contribute to efforts to bring justice to this systemic abuse.
SNAP has zealously and unapologetically guarded its members’ rights to privacy and anonymity, and will continue to do so. Our members must be protected in reaching out to other survivors of abuse for support and assistance. This is and will continue to be a core part of SNAPs philosophy.
Ms. Hammond says that her lawsuit is an effort to force SNAP to go back to its original mission. Ms. Hammond never voiced any concerns whatsoever to SNAP’s volunteer Board of Directors. Instead of sharing her concerns with the board or volunteer leaders to elicit change within the organization, she filed a lawsuit for personal promotion and financial gain four years after she separated from SNAP.
Our Board of Directors is committed to assisting and protecting victims of abuse in an ethical and forthright manner. If anyone has concerns about SNAPs practices and policies, the Board is active in SNAPs operations and is accessible.
We are saddened and disappointed that Ms. Hammond would sue a group of volunteers—a group with whom she has never spoken about her concerns—in an attempt to challenge our mission. We are more than happy to meet with her and let her know that each of us volunteer dozens of hours a week to help people in crisis. Our work is its own reward. We do it because we want to stop the cycle of abuse.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)