Remarks by SNAP Leader Mary Grant, spoken
at memorial service for Eric Zapala

Mrs Zapala, David, James, Paul, other relatives and friends:

Despite this terribly sad time, I am glad to be here with you today to honor Eric, his life and remember his many accomplishments, talents and gifts he shared with so many people in his life---, including the many people who have been touch by Eric’s compassion, courage, and strength, including those who never even met Eric personally.

My name is Mary Grant. I am a SNAP leader from Southern California. Since I received news of Eric’s death I have been amazed at my reaction. It hurts so much. I want to express to all you my heartfelt sympathy. I am so sorry for your loss.

I first met Eric back in the 1990’s through a newspaper article that exposed a terrible hurt that both Eric and I experienced at the hands of trusted authority figures in Orange County.

Our families thought it was great when these men took an interest in us. Our families had no idea these men would hurt us. Our families could not have known. No one could have known. These men were incredibly shrewd, secretive and cunning. These men also knew how to keep us quiet. Neither Eric nor I were able to report what happened to us while we were kids. We involuntarily repressed the memory of what happened to us as children.

Years later, Eric and I were finally able to remember, understand, and slowly begin share the pain, betrayal and loss of innocence we experienced. When we finally did speak, we found validation. We learned that the crimes were not our fault. And we found the strength to expose these horrific crimes, protect other children still at risk and reach out to others who were still trapped in shame and silence.

Eric was there for me personally during a very scary and difficult time in my life when I felt so alone, abandoned and isolated. I remember the many talks we had on the phone and when we went to a comedy club to laugh together which was good medicine for both of us. He even allowed me to come to his home and meet his mother who also reached out to me. She too was a great comfort to me.

Back in the early and mid 90’s there were few victims speaking out. But Eric took the risk and did it. Eric was incredibly courageous and articulate. He was sure of himself and with dignity and clarity, he spoke his truth. He told how he was assaulted when he was only 11 and 12 yrs old. The LA Times even wrote about Eric.

More than anything he wanted to heal himself and protect others. Because he cared so much about others, Eric took the unusual and courageous step of exposing his perpetrator by filing a civil lawsuit. Over and over again, Eric told me he didn’t want any other kid to be abused as he was. Warning others about his perpetrator, he felt, was the best way to warn families about a dangerous man. He was, of course, absolutely right. Thousands of us have followed in his pioneering footsteps. And countless others have been protected as a result.

The obituary written by Eric’s family said it perfectly. “He carried a burden none should have had to carry.” That is so, so true. Eric carried the burden of having been sexually abused. But he carried this horrific burden with dignity, grace, courage and compassion. And despite this burden, he helped so many others by sharing his story.

Eric didn't just help other victims. I remember when Eric spoke at a college class of students studying to be probation officers, DA’s, police officers and social workers. Eric helped teach these students how to help keep other kids safe and how to treat victims sensitively when they disclose abuse. Those students are now in the workforce. They deal with hundreds of wounded people every single day. And I'm convinced they're doing so with more compassion and effectiveness because of Eric. I feel incredibly proud and privileged to have known him.

To his family and loved ones, I know you too feel deeply proud of him. Deep in my heart, though I know he didn't spend much time tooting his own horn, I believe Eric too felt proud of his bravery. He certainly should have.

I hope everyone here recognizes a crucial fact - there is nothing anyone here could have done that would have saved Eric. I'm sure that Eric would agree with me. He would not want anyone here to have any regrets over things that were said or not said, done or not done.

Maybe it seems “corny” but I have felt close to Eric during this past week. I’m not sure if it is my memories of him, my strong wish that he were still alive or whether it could in fact be his spirit with me, but one overriding thought is that Eric would not want his death to be in vain.

Eric spread so much love, compassion, good-will, music, laughter and friendship to the world. Everyone here was touched by Eric. He would want all of us; all those who loved him, to have good lives.

As a SNAP leader and survivor of sexual abuse, I want all of you to know that I commit myself to Eric’s memory and to you, to do all I can to prevent even one more child from being hurt. I ask on behalf of Eric’s actions to join with me in helping to create a safer world for children, a world where no other child gets abused, a world where years later, the innocent children all grown up are no longer haunted by unbearable pain.

In this dark hour, we have two choices - to become bitter, which is understandable, or to become even more committed to ensuring to helping the wounded and protecting the vulnerable. In our hearts, each of us knows what choice Eric would have us make.