|This perp needs jail, too|
Barbara Blaine, leader of priest sex-abuse survivors group, steps down
Feb. 4, 2017
Chicago Tribune staff
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests told its volunteers on Saturday that its president and founder has resigned.
Barbara Blaine, who also describes herself as a survivor, founded the group in Chicago nearly three decades ago. Her resignation, effective Friday, comes a week after SNAP announced the departure of its national director David Clohessy, effective Dec. 31, 2016.
Both were named in a lawsuit filed in Cook County last month by a former SNAP employee, accusing the leaders of referring potential clients to attorneys in return for financial kickbacks to the group.
But Blaine said her leaving had nothing to do with the suit and "no bearing'' on her leaving.
Blaine, who describes herself as a survivor, expressed gratitude for her supporters in an emailed statement.
"It has been the greatest honor of my life to have found and been your president for the past 29 years. Change however is inevitable," Blaine said in the statement.
Mary Ellen Kruger, who is on the SNAP board, said in an emailed statement they are "grateful for her 29 years of leadership."
“Her contribution to the survivors movement is unsurpassed. Her tenacity and fortitude helped expose abuse globally during the past three decades. We will carry on her vision of SNAP as we grow in new ways to better meet the needs of survivors coming forward today and in the future. We wish Barbara the best," Kruger said in the statement.
It was a horrible feeling twenty-nine years ago," Blaine said in the statement. "Church officials would not keep their promises. My perpetrator remained in ministry but more importantly, I felt such immense pain that I was not sure I could continue to live," Blaine said.
“I knew there were other survivors out there and wondered if they felt the same debilitating hurt and if so, how they coped with it. I thought they might hold the wisdom I lacked. I looked for other survivors and asked if they would be willing to talk.
"Somewhere in the past twenty-nine years you got involved and I want to thank you for doing so. To be honest, my heart is overflowing with gratitude to each of you. Words fail to express the extent of how grateful I feel," Blaine said in the statement.
Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director, has become the managing director, according to SNAP. The group said Dorris will work closely with the board of directors to continue to engage the group's volunteer leadership nationwide to help more survivors of sexual abuse and assault, and to stop further abuse, according to the statement.
Blaine and Dorris are defendants, along with SNAP and Executive Director David Clohessy, in a lawsuit filed last month by a former employee. In that lawsuit, former director of development Gretchen Rachel Hammond says she was fired shortly after asking superiors whether SNAP was referring potential clients to attorneys in exchange for donations.
“Please know that the recent lawsuit filed against SNAP, as the others in the past which have no merit, had absolutely no bearing on my leaving. The discussions and process of my departure has been ongoing, Blaine said in the statement.
Ex-worker sues priest sex-abuse victims advocacy group, says it exploited survivors
Manya Brachear Pashman
A former employee of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has sued the victims advocacy group, alleging that SNAP exploited victims of sexual abuse by clergy in return for financial kickbacks from attorneys.
According to a lawsuit filed this week in Cook County Circuit Court, Gretchen Rachel Hammond worked as a director of development from July 2011 until she said she was fired in February 2013, shortly after asking superiors whether SNAP was referring potential clients to attorneys in exchange for donations.
In addition to the organization, defendants named in the lawsuit are Barbara Blaine, its founder and president; David Clohessy, executive director; and Barbara Dorris, outreach director.
Blaine said in a statement that "the allegations are not true."
"This will be proven in court," she said. "SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: To help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse."
Neither Clohessy nor Dorris could be reached for comment.
Though it did not name attorneys, the lawsuit said donations from several high-profile litigators across the country comprised a large percentage of SNAP's income.
Jeff Anderson, a prominent Minnesota attorney for victims of clergy sex abuse who was not named in the lawsuit, confirmed that he makes regular donations to SNAP, as well as other nonprofit organizations that advocate for the safety of children. But he said he does not do it in exchange for referrals.
"I have supported SNAP and a lot of other organizations that help survivors throughout the country, unapologetically," he said.
"The allegation is explosive because it's unethical," he added. "I've never done it nor would I ever do it."
According to the lawsuit, Hammond grew suspicious of SNAP's methods when she was not permitted to participate in an internal audit of SNAP by an accounting firm and was barred from attending survivors' meetings, group therapy sessions or counseling sessions to help generate material for grant proposals.
She also was given access to a list of lawyers who regularly donated to SNAP but was told to never tell anyone that lawyers donate to the organization, according to the lawsuit. At a news conference, Hammond said she raised more than $950,000 for SNAP during her 19 months there.
A Missouri judge ruled in 2012 to open more than two decades of correspondence with victims, lawyers, witnesses and journalists to shed light on whether SNAP had coached victims to fabricate claims of repressed memory.
Shortly after that, Hammond said, she was accidentally copied on an email from Clohessy to an attorney, asking when he could expect the next donation, the lawsuit said. It was then she began to ask questions and the workplace climate dramatically changed, she alleged in the lawsuit.
She said she began to collect evidence of what she believed to be a kickback scheme, copying reams of documents and downloading records on a flash drive she used to do work at home. When SNAP sent a volunteer to her apartment to collect the flash drive, she did not disclose that she had copied it, the lawsuit said. She was fired two days later, she said.
Though she decided not to go to authorities at the time, the movie "Spotlight" renewed her concerns and she sought legal counsel. Hammond alleges she could not find employment that paid as much as she made at SNAP and is seeking compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and expenses.