Survivors of Clergy Abuse Find Understanding
By: MAX HEUER
Journal Inquirer Staff Writer
Published on 02/19/2005
Beth McCabe was driving to work one morning in 2002, stuck in a New Haven
gridlock, when she got to thinking: she realized she had been a victim of
clergy sexual abuse 40 years earlier.
"It's that moment and you just say, 'I can't believe this is happening,'"
After years of repression and suffering from intense fear of religious
figures, McCabe awoke to her history only after repeated news reports on the
spreading scandal in archdioceses around the country jogged her memory.
But the next step was even harder - how to deal with the realization in
McCabe began searching for support, and located a national group called the
Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an organization of
support groups around the country.
She drove to meetings in West Springfield twice, but the trip from her home in
Canton was too taxing. She then connected with 30-year-old Landa
Mauriello-Vernon of Hamden, who already had begun work to found a chapter in
"I think what I felt was like this instant bond with this group of strangers,"
said McCabe, who heads SNAP's monthly meeting in East Hartford. The group also
meets in Bridgeport.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the news conference announcing
the founding of the Connecticut chapter, which was led by chapter president
For survivors like Mauriello-Vernon - who had filed a lawsuit in New Haven
Superior Court against her accused abuser, a nun at Sacred Heart Academy in
Hamden - and McCabe, handling publicity and discussing their past with
strangers was a new experience, but has, over time, helped them.
"I don't think one ever gets used to it," McCabe said of the attention. But
more news conferences followed, including one in July on Long Island, where
McCabe's alleged childhood abuse occurred.
"I think everyone's story is different," she said.
But through the support group, McCabe said, "We found out a lot of our
behaviors and feelings were very similar.
"I think the thing that brought the survivors together was when it became
clear that the Catholic church had covered all this up," she said. "Certainly
what it did for me is it just triggered" feelings of "betrayal."
After the group started meeting in Bridgeport, Mauriello-Vernon said, she
received a torrent of e-mails asking for a group closer to Hartford.
The group began meeting in East Hartford in June.
"We have members whose families are not supportive. We've had victims whose
family members say, 'well, just forget about it or get over it,''' said
Mauriello-Vernon. "This is not something you just get over.
"I think what we've found in SNAP is, it's better to travel that road with
other people who've gone through it," she said.
McCabe said attendance at the East Hartford meeting place - the location of
which is revealed only to members of the group - varies between three and 12
The group also takes interest in court cases, and held a rally at New Britain
Superior Court on Thursday, Feb. 17, when a New Britain priest who pleaded
guilty to having sex with a 17-year-old girl was sentenced.
The SNAP support group meets in East Hartford from 7 to 9 p.m. the second
Wednesday of every month.
For more information, contact Landa Mauriello-Vernon at (203) 687-8072 or
e-mail her at Lmv125@comcast.net.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.
Copyright © Journal Inquirer 2005