CHICAGO – A former employee of Survivors Network of those Abused
by Priests (SNAP) is suing the group, alleging collusion with survivors'
attorneys - charges the group denies.
The former employee, Chicago resident Gretchen Rachel Hammond,
alleges in her lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, that the advocacy group conspired with attorneys for plaintiffs who
sought help from SNAP, resulting in the group accepting “kickbacks” in the form of a donation
to SNAP once a case was taken on.
Hammond also alleges that there were no grief or rape
counselors on staff at SNAP to help victims of clergy abuse.
“SNAP is a self-help peer support group. Its
foundation is based on this,” Barbara Dorris, SNAP outreach director, told the
Cook County Record.
“We think that grief and rape counselors are incredibly important. We encourage survivors to seek outside counseling. We do not offer that here, but we encourage it.”
Hammond was employed with SNAP from July 2011 until
February 2013 as a director of development. Hammond was “deeply excited to apply her
professional experience in non-profit fundraising to the noble endeavor of
helping victims who had suffered sexual assault at the hands of trusted clergy
members,” the lawsuit states.
Hammond alleges that victims are exploited, rather
than helped. Dorris said this is not true.
SNAP is a non-profit organization that was based in Chicago before moving to St. Louis. It now has chapters all around the world. It bills itself as a self-help
support group for those who have been victimized by clergy. SNAP's website lists
several support groups it offers and lists resources for choosing a grief and
Defendants in the lawsuit include SNAP; Barbara
Blaine, the founder and president of SNAP; David Clohessy, the executive
director of SNAP; and Dorris.
The lawsuit states: “SNAP does not focus on protecting
or helping survivors — it exploits them. SNAP routinely accepts financial
kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations.’ In exchange for the
kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then
file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church.”
“That is absolutely not true,” Dorris said in
reference to the claims.
Dorris confirmed Hammond had been an employee of SNAP,
but would not speak on specifics of why or how she left.
The lawsuit also states: “SNAP also regularly
communicates with attorneys about their lawsuits on behalf of survivors,
receiving drafts of pleadings and other privileged information … Attorneys and
SNAP base their strategy not on the best interest of the survivor, but on what
will generate the most publicity and on fundraising opportunities for SNAP.”
Among other allegations, the lawsuit specifically claimed 81 percent
of the $437,407 in donations SNAP received in 2007
came from attorneys who had
Hammond alleged she began to question SNAP’s operations when she
was barred from participating in an internal audit and from attending survivor
meetings and group therapy sessions.
Hammond is being represented by the Chicago law firm of Siprut PC.