SNAP Connecticut

Survivors of Clergy Abuse Find Understanding

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,'" McCabe recalled.

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 everyday life.

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 this state.

"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 Mauriello-Vernon.

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 people.

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

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Copyright Journal Inquirer 2005

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Last Updated: October 26, 2005