Last weekend, this site was linked to the homepage for SNAP (Survivor’s Network of those Abuse by Priests) and included in their on-line bookstore. Thank you, Phil! There’s been a lot of traffic from the SNAP site. So I want to let you know that SNAP plays an important role in the second chapter of Strong at the Heart which is an interview with Jonathan, the teen with the double earrings in the slide show on my homepage.
Since I haven’t yet (sorry!) posted parts of his story on the interview page, I’ll give you a taste of his chapter here.
When I met Jonathan, he was seventeen years old, the sixth child in a good Catholic family of twelve kids. He described himself and his brothers as “an original bunch of rowdy boys.”
At age ten, Jonathan was sexually abused by the family priest. Although one of his brothers helped to end the abuse, they never talked about it. Jonathan didn’t tell anyone what happened for years. In his chapter, he describes the corroding effect of the abuse on his self-image, his developing sexuality, and his relationships with family and friends. As a young teen, he got into drugs and attempted suicide. He lashed out at his family.
Jon also tells how the abuse eventually came out, how he “connected the dots” and–with help from his family–overcame his destructive behavior.
SNAP was an important part of Jon’s advanced healing and his decision to speak out as a teen survivor.
“This past July I saw a couple of older guys on TV who were abused by priests, guys in their thirties and forties. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t the only one. I am not alone. . .
“So I got hold of this group called SNAP . . . I started going to meetings, met other people just like me. It was one of the biggest healing processes for me because–therapist, family, friends–no matter how much they want to help, people do not understand how you feel unless they have gone through it, too.”
Because of SNAP, Jon decided to speak out at a press conference which was covered by the major newspapers in his region. In his chapter he describes what it was like to go to high school the day after everyone found out about the abuse. The chance to help other kids, he feels, is worth it. He has spoken out about sexual abuse at schools in his state.
“Other teenagers can see that I’m a kid just like them, from an everyday town like theirs, and it hits home. That’s when people realize that sexual abuse isn’t just a story in a book or a scene in a movie. It’s something that happens every single day to people like them.”
Jonathan also participated in a SNAP vigil in Washington, D. C. He describes his conversations with his bishop, and the effect that the church’s cover-up of the original abuse had on his family and on his spirituality.
Going public about abuse isn’t for everyone. I am so glad Jon chose to be a part of Strong a the Heart. He gives voice to the experiences and feelings of young male abuse survivors. And he gives to other young survivors on the validation that he received from older members of SNAP.