SNAP Supporter & Donor Profile: Telling One’s Story: Gail Howard
This profile was written by Patrick Price, Fundraising and Development Manager of SNAP, to honor our courageous and dedicated supporters and donors.
Upon the release of the clergy sexual abuse exposé in the Boston Globe in 2002, Gail Howard was totally shocked by what she read. Why? Years earlier Gail had been sexually assaulted by her own pastor, and throughout those years, she believed that she was the only person to have ever experienced such a trauma. “I thought I was alone,” Gail says, “but then I knew I was not the only one!” In 2004, she found others who had undergone such abuse when she became part of the Voice of the Faithful, a group seeking to support victims and reform the Church from within Norwalk, Connecticut. Meeting to tell her story was, as she put it, “super scary.” Eventually, with encouragement from Voice of the Faithful, she found the inner strength to share her story in public. Speaking away from Church property, as Voice of the Faithful was not welcomed by the Church, Gail, with her husband by her side, shared the horror of what she had experienced. She used a pseudonym that day to protect her mother, who never knew about her daughter’s sexual abuse.
Gail then joined SNAP’s Bridgeport, Connecticut, support group, where she again realized that she was not a lone survivor of clergy sexual abuse, that what happened to her was not her fault, that others genuinely believed her story, and that there was a way forward in her search for healing. “I owe my mental health to SNAP,” Gail claims. “No one tried to fix me. I was just given the space and opportunity to be heard and believed.” In 2014, after her retirement, Gail became a SNAP support group facilitator in Bridgeport and thanks her colleagues Beth McCabe, Landa Mauriello-Vernon and Jim Hackett for helping her develop her facilitator skills.
That same year, Gail was asked by SNAP to recount her personal story of clergy sexual abuse at a press conference in Chicago at the Chancery of the Archdiocese. She remains truly grateful to David Clohessy, who prepared the press release, and to Barbara Blaine, who stood by her side at the conference, giving Gail the courage to take this huge step in acknowledging the abuse issues facing the Catholic Church.
Today, Gail also serves as a SNAP advocate. In 2019, the Connecticut legislature changed its Statute of Limitations (SOL) cut-off age from 48 to 51, ignoring the fact that the average age to come forward and report childhood sexual abuse is 52. In response, she joined with other advocates to pressure the Connecticut legislature to eliminate the SOL altogether, including retroactively. So far, the Church and insurance companies have blocked this reform, but the fight goes on. With fellow SNAP advocates and other allies such as CT Alliance to End Sexual Violence and ChildUSA, Gail continues to fight for the complete elimination of Connecticut’s Statute of Limitations law.
Gail has been a longtime sustaining donor of SNAP, as she knows there is still so much work to be done in providing survivor support and education and in constantly struggling to bring the truth to light about the atrocities of clergy sexual abuse.