Essay, Speech


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

The Survivor's Voice
Op-Ed, Essays, Speeches

The Honorable E. Michael McCann
Milwaukee County District Attorney
821 West State Street
Safety Building, Room 405
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Dear Mr. McCann:

I attended the listening session on Saturday, October 26, 2002 at the Midwest Express Center. I made the drive from St. Paul, Minnesota to be there to support a dear friend who spoke. Let me say at the outset, that this letter has no ill feelings whatsoever, though I wish to express a concern.

I am also a victim of sexual abuse by catholic clergy and one of the local organizers of the Minnesota Chapter of SNAP. As such, I need to offer a written response to your question about where the victims of the '90s are.

It is much too soon to expect to see many, or any victims from any incidents of clergy abuse having occurred in the 1990s. I truly believe your zeal for justice was the basis for your remark. However, it is damaging to assume that enough time has elapsed and that it might be safe for those victims to speak up. It is a frustrating piece of the abuse
puzzle to be sure, but victims historically are simply not able to break the silence until after much more time has passed.

There are too many factors involved in the silence: the incident(s) themselves, overt or covert threats of harm to those to tell, the age of the victims, the subsequent circumstances in which victims find themselves having to cope: abusive marriages, single parenthood, or poverty, and some coping mechanisms used to subdue the intense anguish which then necessitate their own recovery before the initial violation can even
be considered: alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, gambling, or a life of crime.

If the initial incidents can be processed and understood as crimes, and the fear of retaliation for reporting those crimes can be overcome, there are still other factors to be considered: the risks for the victim upon reporting, the all too real fears of reprisal and
re-victimization, harsh judgments from juries who are not versed in the devastating
effects these crimes have on the physical and mental health of victims, and the lack of a support system to advocate for a victim who finally feels they can go public.

The insidious nature of sexual abuse crimes by clergy is such that it can alienate us from our families. We can withdraw from any family event or celebration because for Catholics, most of those events revolve around the Sacraments or the Holy Days of our Faith. Attending such events can be triggers to flashbacks or bouts of panic so we choose to skip the events at the expense of our sorely needed support. It happens
without any conscious effort. It is mechanism that evolves from the intense need to self-protect. So not having maintained family relationships hinders the reporting process as well.

Please don't mistake my message for anything but information from a victim who has been through all of the above. The zeal you demonstrated as you listened and participated was clearly evident. We all have much to learn, and we all have much we can share. I simply wish to ask you to consider my thoughts before you make any further public statements that may reflect negatively on the internal process victims go through even before they get to the point at which they feel they can break the silence.

Thank you for your participation in the listening panel. Thank you for your time and effort. Thank you for considering by perspective. Healing from sexual abuse by clergy is such an arduous journey and we need all the help we can get.

With great respect,

Belinda Martinez


Cc: Archbishop Timothy Dolan
Bishop Richard Sklba

Patricia Marchant

Mary Hennis

Barbara Schveidler

Barbara Reinke

Peter Isely




Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests