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Lawsuit Alleges Exploitation of Abuse Survivors by Non-Profit Organization

FMSF News Alert - February 2, 2017

Dear Friends,

"It is very painful to me to have anyone, especially in the mental health community, doubt the existence of repressed memories."
-- David Clohessy

For many years a group known as SNAP (Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests) appears to have encouraged people to file lawsuits against priests - many of those suits based on claims of recovered memories. The group and its leader, David Clohessy, went beyond their mission to hold abusive priests accountable and involved itself in the Mohler family case about which we wrote extensively in our spring and winter 2010 newsletters. We thought our readers would find the following news of interest.

J. Bean and Pamela

Lawsuit Alleges Exploitation of Abuse Survivors by Non Profit Organization

A non-profit organization purporting to represent victims of sexual abuse collected millions in revenues acting primarily as a referral service for attorneys, according to a lawsuit filed by a former fundraiser for the group.

The money was paid to SNAP (Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests) from settlements negotiated by lawyers to whom the group sent abuse survivors who called their hotline, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the lawsuit filed by Gretchen Rachel Hammonds on January 19th:

"SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors - it exploits them."..."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. These cases often settle, to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial benefit of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements."

Hammond claims that in one year, over 80 percent of all donations to SNAP came from victims’ lawyers.

Former national director of the organization, David Clohessy called the allegations "utterly preposterous" adding that SNAP has "always been under attack by somebody". Clohessy resigned as director of the organization effective December 2016 - an announcement which was made public one week following the filing of this lawsuit.

Jeff Anderson, a prominent attorney who handles many clergy abuse cases commented "The allegation is explosive because it’s unethical"..." I’ve never done it nor would I ever do it."

This is not the first time SNAP’s relationship with attorneys has been called into question. In 2012, a judge ordered SNAP to turn over decades of correspondence to determine if there had been attempts to coach victims into claiming they’d repressed memories of their abuse in order to toll statutes of limitations. In some of those documents, it was discovered that Director Clohessey had informed media outlets of lawsuits against a Kansas City Diocese hours before the lawsuits had been filed.

When questioned as to how SNAP was able to predict lawsuits before they occur, Mr. Clohessy invoked the confidentiality rule permitted to Missouri Rape Crisis Centers. In turn, opposing counsel then questioned SNAP’s status as a Rape Counseling Center using the organization&rquo;s tax returns:

Q. If you look on page 5 it shows total
24 revenue of $928,129; do you see that?
25 A. I do.

1 Q. And your expenses are $695,730; do you
2 see that?
3 A. I do.
4 Q. So roughly there was about $230,000
5 received over and above expenses in that year;
6 isn’t that correct?
7 A. That's what this seems to indicate.

Q. And let me also represent to you that
2 in statements to the press Ms. Randles has
3 indicated what she contributed to this
4 organization. I believe Jeff Anderson has also
5 stated what he has contributed to SNAP.
6 My question is how much money did
7 Rebecca Randles contribute to SNAP in the year
8 2006?
9 MR. JENSEN: Objection based on the
10 same Missouri Rape Crisis Center Statute, SNAP’s
11 rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly
12 and freedom of association, NAACP versus Alabama,
13 National (sic) Press Association versus Stuart,
14 relevance and the form of the question.
15 And I’ll instruct the witness not to
16 answer the question.
18 Q. Mr. Clohessy, are you following that
19 instruction?
20 A. I am.
21 Q. You’re following that instruction even
22 though they publicly said what they contributed to
23 SNAP?
24 A. I’m not a lawyer.

Q. Well, if we look at this document, do
16 you see anything in statement 2 under the federal
17 statements portion where it lists out separately
18 for counseling fees?
19 A. I don’t, although I don’t know what
20 the category survivor support involves. But I
21 don’t see the word "counseling" if that’s what
22 you’re asking me.
23 Q. Well, if we look under survivor
24 support how much money are we talking about there?
25 A. $593., Pgs 3-8