SCRANTON, Pa. -- A group that advocates for victims of sexual abuse by priests is in our area, reaching out to those affected by the church sex abuse scandal.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held a news conference in front of St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton.
After the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was released last week, members of SNAP started a media tour through Pennsylvania.
"Most victims of child abuse never step forward. This may be an opportunity for victims to come forward," said SNAP president Tim Lennon.
The goal of SNAP is to create an environment for victims to feel safe enough to come forward. That's why they're here in Scranton. The president of the group, a victim himself, says he knows there are victims here who have stayed silent.
The grand jury report listed 59 priests accused of abuse in the Diocese of Scranton alone.
"The important point is that survivors know that they're not alone. It wasn't their fault. They can get better."
Heather Hogan-Spencer grew up in Wilkes-Barre in the Catholic Church. She is no longer a practicing Catholic, though, because of what has happened. She now offers support to victims through SNAP.
"I cannot begin to tell you the damage that causes to that child. It affects their relationships. It affects their family. It affects their career. It affects their health," Hogan-Spencer said.
Hogan-Spencer has read all of Scranton's section of the grand jury report. She recognized and knew of five of the named priests.
"I recognized five priests in that report and, of course, Bishop Timlin. It is my opinion that this is a systemic issue, that this is an institutional issue that does not just span Pennsylvania. We know what happened in Boston, and how everyone went back to sleep after that happened, and we know what happened in Altoona, Johnstown, Philly, and we went back to sleep after that," said Heather Hogan-Spencer.
"I'm tired of hearing, 'I'm sorry.' I'm tired of hearing prayers and penance. This is criminal. If you hurt a child, you are a criminal. If you perpetuate the abuse of children, you are a criminal. If you look the other way, you are a criminal," she added.
We reached out to the Diocese of Scranton for comment, and we received this statement back.
"This is a difficult time for victims, victim advocates, and the faithful of the Scranton diocese. We respect the right of individuals and organizations to assemble peacefully to express their opinions. This is part of the healing process and we're hopeful to restore trust in the church."