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  • “Abused in Isolation (고립된 피해자가) 있다, Healing Together (함께 치유를) 잇다.”

    Melanie Sakoda (SNAP)

     

     

    Q. Please introduce yourself and SNAP.
    Q. 자기소개 부탁드립니다.
    My name is Melanie Sakoda. I am the Survivor Support Coordinator for SNAP, and SNAP is the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Now, the name is a little bit of a misnomer, we started by working exclusively with Catholic survivors, but now we work with any survivor of clergy sexual abuse or those abused in religious institutions.


    Q. How long have you been with SNAP? What role does the Survivor Support Coordinator usually play?
    Q. SNAP에서 활동한 지 얼마나 되셨나요? Survivor Support Coordinator라는 직책은 주로 어떤 역할을 하나요?
    I don’t quite remember when I first started in SNAP, it was maybe somewhere between 2004 and 2006. I actually came out of the Orthodox Christian Church, and before I joined with SNAP, some friends and I had started a website for survivors abused in the Orthodox churches. That was in June 1999 and our website ran until we just took it off in March of 2020. But to get back to SNAP, so in 2008, the founder of SNAP reached out to other groups which were working in the same area. She invited my friend and me to Chicago. I did not go, but my co-worker Cappy Larson went, and as a result of this meeting, we both became leaders in SNAP and I took on a local leadership position as well as being a contact for Orthodox survivors in SNAP and that was in 2008. In 2016, I was elected to SNAP’s Board of Directors, and I worked there until I took this position as the Survivor Support Coordinator in February of 2019. As Survivor Support Coordinator, essentially I am the liaison between volunteer leaders and the executive director. I also do SNAP’s social media, and I help with editing some of the media statements, media advisories, and correspondence that we put out.


    Q. I’m curious about the specific organization of the SNAP.
    Q. SNAP의 구체적인 조직 구성이 궁금합니다.
    SNAP is actually a very small non-profit. We have 2 full-time employees, our executive director Zach Hiner and our fundraiser, Patrick Price. I work part-time as the Survivor Support Coordinator. We have a bookkeeper and we have Zach and his assistant who also works part-time. Those are our employees, and all the other roles and all the other local leaders are all volunteers. They are either survivors, family members of survivors, or we have a few who are just concerned citizens. 
    The leaders sometimes work in teams. I know there’s a group that works in Louisiana, but most of the time, it’s just one leader in the city. If you’re lucky, maybe there are 3 people who regularly attend your support meetings. Actually one of the things we were doing even before COVID-19 is that we were working toward having virtual support groups, so that people didn’t need to be in the same geographic location in order to participate. We already had this process in place, but we stepped it up once the virus hit, and it’s been really successful. In particular, two of our most well-attended meetings are because of the virtual opportunities. We have a separate meeting for male survivors, and another one for female survivors, and that has worked out very nicely, both of the groups were extremely popular.

    Actually, as to the number of volunteers, I don’t have an accurate count, because it changes. We have volunteers coming and volunteers going all the time, but I think there are somewhere between maybe 150 and 200 volunteer leaders around the world. We have a chapter in Australia, a chapter in New Zealand, a chapter in Japan, and in Europe we have some representation as well. That has changed recently, so I’m not exactly sure where we have representatives. It’s a little harder to transplant our model in different countries because they have different laws and different cultures.

     

    Q. What was particularly difficult or the most angry thing about planning and proceeding with SNAP, and how did you overcome the process? If you have any specific cases, what do you have? The social atmosphere, such as protests against the anti sexual violence movement....
    Q. SNAP을 기획하고 진행하면서 특별히 어려웠거나 가장 분노했던 점은 무엇이고, 그 과정을 어떻게 극복했나요? 혹시 구체적인 사례에는 어떤 것이 있었나요? 반성폭력 운동에 대한 반대 시위 등의 사회적인 분위기라든가...
    It can be very difficult to speak out publicly. Probably the worst media event I ever went to was actually at an Episcopal church that’s near me here in Northern California. We were really surprised. The man that was the priest, the Episcopal Church knew that he had abused a 14 year old in Southern California. Unfortunately, the priest’s brother was a bishop, so he remained in ministry. He was pastoring a parish near me and we went there. The people were very hostile, there were a lot of rude hand gestures, and there was even one case where we were standing on the public sidewalk. There was a car coming as someone was crossing the drive way into the church, and the car sped up as it was approaching her. But, what you get most of the time is more benign. You get people who if you’re handing out leaflets, there are people who refuse to take it, but you don’t often get that kind of overt hostility like with the car. It does happen, but most of the time as long as you’re not in preventing anyone from going into their church or coming out of the church and you’re staying where you’re allowed to stay under the local laws, no. 
    Most of the time, people will, if they’re hostile to you, they’ll just ignore you. If you’re handing out something, they will just brush it away.

    I think it’s very common for those who have a position of authority in churches to try to keep allegations quiet. I’m not sure why they do this, and the only reasonable explanations I heard it that, “Oh, if we let people know, it’ll hurt people’s faith or it’ll keep people from converting to our religion” and that may be true. But I think it’s more damaging if congregations find out that this is being hidden from them and particularly if someone else has been hurt because the church decided to keep quiet. It’s not unusual to find accused clergy continuing their ministry and it’s unfortunately not unusual to find accused clergy who have a lot of support from people who are not involved in the abuse. It’s really hard for people to realize that the church they’re going to, to express their religious beliefs, may not be safe. It’s a sort of disconcerting position and it can be hard for people to accept. It’s easier to accept that the people who are accusing the ministers are lying, mentally ill, on drugs, whatever they choose to believe. That’s unfortunate because in the vast majority of allegations of sexual abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, the victims are telling the truth. There are very, very few false allegations. That is something we try to emphasize as an educational component to what we do, to try to educate the public that often supports the accused. Chances are that he did it, or she if you have female ministers, because people just don’t normally make those kinds of accusations.

    SNAP has been existence since 1988, so we’ve been around a long time. Over the course of those 30+ years, what we’ve seen is that unusually people were reluctant to believe that this happens. In 2002, you had the Boston Globe exposé that was memorialized in the Spotlight movie, and then in 2018, you had the Pennsylvania grand jury report. In this country, I think both of those two major media events have made people aware that “No, it does happen.” In particular, the Boston Globe report was great in focusing on the archdiocese in Boston. One of the things that some people decided was that “That was Boston, that doesn’t happen elsewhere.” What the Pennsylvania grand jury report showed was two things. Number one, that the Catholic Church had a playbook that they used to deal with victims who were coming forward, that was to minimize their allegations, to try to keep them quiet, and this playbook was what we’d seen in Boston. So now we’re seeing another diocese and that began to loosen up people’s ideas that “maybe this wasn’t just a Boston problem, just American problem, maybe this was a worldwide problem for the Catholic Church.” The other thing that happened was that it sparked other investigations. We made a push to have similar investigation in other states, saying you should do what Pennsylvania did, and we successfully spurred investigations in other states. The outcome has been that people began to realize that “this does happen.” Unfortunately, I think that as the result of Catholic Church’s response to say that this was a homosexual problem, churches that allow married ministers said, “Well, we obviously can’t have that problem.” That’s not true. Sexual abuse is about power and control and has nothing to do with sex. It operates through the median of sex, but it is not about sex.

     

    Q. As far as I know, it's the first time we've held a conference online, and is there anything good or difficult about having a SNAP conference online because of COVID-19?
    Q. 온라인으로 컨퍼런스를 개최한 것은 처음이라고 알고 있는데, COVID-19로 인해 온라인으로 SNAP 컨퍼런스를 진행하면서 좋았던 점 혹은 어려웠던 점이 있을까요?
    The one thing that you miss in a virtual conference is the simple, personal interactions, having lunch with your friends, maybe going out to have drinks after the day’s over for the conference. I mean, online you still get the speakers and the breakout sessions. You’re still getting the information. We had a couple of people saying “Yeah, this is the first time I’ve ever told anyone what happened to me.” So in that sense, you had people listening and nodding their heads, and then saying “Thank you for sharing. Something similar happened to me.” But what you’re not getting is a feeling that you’re a member of something bigger. You can’t go up and maybe after someone shared at a support meeting, you can’t really hug them saying “I’m really sorry what happened to you” or if they’re crying, you can’t hand them tissues. I hope that eventually we’ll all be able to get back to in-person meetings, but I think in the interim, this works. It’s not ideal, but it’s a good way for people to get information, a good way to let people know that they’re not alone.

     

    Q. What do you think caused the #ChurchToo movement to explode in a short period of time?
    Q. 이렇게 #ChurchToo 운동이 단기간 내에 폭발적으로 퍼졌던 원인은 무엇이었다고 생각하시나요?
    The reason why I think #ChurchToo exploded was for two reasons. Number one, groups like SNAP had promoted awareness of sexual abuse in religious institutions, and the other thing possibly is maybe the women’s movement in this country. All of a sudden, then you have some momentum to the accusations against well-known men, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and these women are coming forward were getting recognition. The women that had been abused in religious institutions related to that thought like “Okay, all these people are listening now. Let’s speak up.” The more people spoke up, the more people spoke up, because you saw that you weren’t alone, that you weren’t the only one that had been through that kind of experience, whether you experienced it as an adult or child. I think the only sort of interesting feature of that movement was that sometimes the man felt left out and men said “Me too! Me too! It happened to Me too!” Although I certainly do agree that it happens to men, women’s voices have always been less heard. It’s probably because many societies have taboos against male on male relationships, but when it’s male on female, you don’t have that sort of gasping reaction to it. It’s much easier to fall into the pattern of it’s the woman who’s seducing the minister. Even the teenage girl can be seen 
    as coming on to them, and then all of this came up and people started talking. It’s a sort of permanent part of at least the social media sayings now, certainly appeared in the regular media too. People are speaking up that this happens. If you speak up, there’s much more chance you’ll be believed now, maybe not within the community that you’re talking about. Communities have the tendency to remember “He was so kind when my father died.” They see that side of him, but the victims see another side, so it’s hard for people to adjust. But, I think when you go to the public, as we usually try to get people do it by going to the police, filing a lawsuit, or simply speaking up to the church, more and more, they’re having a better reception. The church is clearly the place where they’ll get the worst reception, but certainly the public awareness is being raised that these things do happen.


    Q. Is there any part of the activity that you feel has changed or grown up in the church or society?
    Q. 활동을 통해 교회나 사회가 변화하거나 성장했다고 느낀 부분이 있을까요?
    We’ve seen more response from the church because SNAP now, even though we’re small, have general recognition, particularly in the media. When we say something, people pay attention and I think the church now feels they can’t ignore us. When we present information, it’s probably going to engender some sort of response from the news media. That’s what they don’t want and that’s what we want because that’s how you reach out to other victims whether it’s victims of the same perpetrator or victims of totally different perpetrators maybe even someone abused in the family. They see that people can speak up and get help. I think that helps people and when you have an Attorney General set up a hotline, and in California the Attorney General’s hotline is not just for Catholics, I’m sure that’s probably why more folks feel comfortable, knowing that this is a place where you can go, you can tell someone about what happened. You’re going to get what I understand is a very simplistic response. You know that they’re listening to you and they may not be able to do anything about it, unfortunately, because of legal limitations on prosecutions for sexual abuse case both criminally and civilly, but they’re listening to you. For many survivors, that’s the first time anyone’s listened to them, anyone believed them. An important first step to healing is to tell your story and instead of having people saying “Well, are you sure? Could you have misinterpreted him?”, instead you’ll find people sitting there nodding their heads because they understand what you’re talking about.

     

    Q. What has changed the most in SNAP since the #ChurchToo movement? Also, what role do you think SNAP played in the #ChurchToo movement?
    Q. #ChurchToo 운동 이후 SNAP을 운영하는 데에 가장 크게 변한 점이 있나요? #ChurchToo 운동에는 SNAP이 어떤 역할을 했다고 생각하시나요?

    We like to think that it was SNAP that sort of laid the groundwork, that we got the issue in front of the media. We got the public to think about the idea that this could possibly happen in churches. I don’t really think that anything has changed in SNAP because of the #ChurchToo movement other than maybe more people realize that what we have to offer: our support groups and our media outreach, are not just for Catholic survivors. We tend to talk a lot about the Catholic Church because they’re the largest organization in the world. So when they ineffectively handle this, if affects so many people, not just the survivors, but their families, their parents, their siblings, their children. But I think the lessons learned from the Catholic Church that we’ve seen exposed in public are lessons that every church needs to learn. That is, if there’s a problem, you acknowledge it, you talk about it, you ask for survivors to come forward, you ask for witnesses to come forward, people who suspected that something was wrong. All that can be important information when you’re trying to decide if a minister is guilty of what he’s accused of.


    Q. I thought that the U.S. has more efforts to make some church law like prohibiting to maintain their ministry of the pastors who committed the crime. You mean that despite the law, the church’s attitude is usually ignoring, not that active role to solve this problem.
    Q. 미국에서는 범죄를 저지른 사람은 목회를 지속할 수 없는 등의 교회법을 제정하는 노력이 있다고 들었는데요. 그러한 법에도 불구하고 교회는 이 문제를 해결하기 위해 그렇게까지 아주 적극적인 역할을 취하지는 않고 주로 무시한다는 건가요?
    I think in the U.S. it has become much harder for someone who’s been identified as an abuser to continue in ministry. But, the problem is that if the identification of someone as an abuser is only internal within the church, then they’re much more likely to get away with that because nobody knows. What SNAP and other groups have done is to say we’re going to put this out in the public so that if you want to keep this person in ministry, then the people that come to your church should be aware. We’ve done what we can to try to protect people, just by saying this is what happened. We know from studies that those people who use their religious authority to abuse people, chances are once an accusation comes up, there’ll be earlier accusations, if you don’t stop them, there’ll be more people hurt down the road. That’s what SNAP works for, to make sure that you get the knowledge out in the public. What you can do with that depends on where you live and what the rules are in your country. Some of the things that we have been able to do in this country might not work in another country. Australians didn’t do support groups. They’re free to adjust our template in a way that works best for their country. Hopefully there’s a lot of similar things that people in another countries can do.


    Q. So, you mean that SNAP is more focusing on the sociocultral and helping people external to the church, to speak up in the public rather than the movement about law, like church law or social law.
    Q. 그러니까 SNAP은 교회법이나 사회법 같은 법에 대한 운동보다는 사회문화적인 측면에 초점을 맞춰서 교회 외부에서 사람들을 돕는다는 것이죠?
    I think working on secular law is very important. Working on church law... I do know that among the changes that the Catholic bishops instituted in 2002 after the Spotlight report, is in Catholic school, teaching children about abuse and patterns they shouldn’t have to tolerate. That’s probably the most helpful thing that they’ve done. As far as when someone reports an allegation to the Church, I’m not sure they made quite as much progress as you would like to see. I think they’re still where you have an internal investigation, as the McCarrick report just illustrated recently. The report on Cardinal McCarrick showed that you have friendships and it’s hard to have an investigation where your friends are the investigators. So that’s why we always tell survivors that if what happened to you is a crime, then report it to the police! You can report to the church afterwards if you want to, but try to get an outside agency that’s going to look into it. If churches are going to investigate, they should either moved, if you’re abused, say in one diocese, then maybe another diocese, where the investigators have no connection to the people in your diocese, should investigate. So, they can truly look at it more openly, and that’s where they’ve been falling down. They haven’t recognized their own biases and in the United States, there are even groups that will go in and investigate for the churches. So, they don’t have to do their own internal investigations.

     

    Q. Are there any major financial difficulties in operating SNAP? Where is the main source of financial support?
    Q. 재정적으로 SNAP을 운영하는 데에 큰 어려움은 없나요? 주로 재정적인 지원의 출처는 어디인가요?
    Operating a non-profit is always difficult because you’re always dependent on the funding. As a matter of fact, I’ve been told that around the time Boston Globe’s Spotlight Report came out, SNAP was considering folding because they were having such a struggle for donations. But what happened was with the resurgence of interest and national media attention on what was happening in Boston, donations began rolling in again. Particularly, I went to look at our annual report, most of our contributions come from people. Most of them are from survivors, some from attorneys who represent survivors. Our second largest source of funding is grants. Our annual conference provides a small amount of money every year. It’s a fundraiser. And then interest from money that we do have. SNAP has very small budget, we have less than $500,000 in income every year. It’s not one of your major non-profits. We hope that will change as we try to move it from a grass movement to a more professional movement. A lot of us have a dream that, at some point, 
    there’ll be a little SNAP offices all over the world. Maybe then the people now volunteering, will be able to receive a small salary for all the work they do. They do great work, but they’re volunteers.

     

    Q. What do you think is the secret of SNAP's 30-year existence? What is the force that keeps you active so far despite the difficulties of exercise, slow change of society, etc.?
    Q. SNAP이 30년간 유지되어온 비결은 무엇이라고 생각합니까? 운동의 어려움, 변화의 더딤 등 여러 난관에도 불구하고 현재까지 계속해서 활동할 수 있게 만드는 힘은 무엇인가요?
    I think that the secret of SNAP’s 30 year existence was basically the survivors. Even though we have flexible volunteers, the survivors have propelled the movement forward. They haven’t given up and particularly after the Spotlight exposé, they were invigorated, and the same thing happened again after the Pennsylvania grand jury report. It showed that there was progress. It was slow, and not as fast or as deep as we might have wished, but it was there, and that encouraged people to keep working on this issue. To the extent that in 2019, when the Pope had a meeting about sexual abuse, there was a tremendous outpouring from survivors all over the world. They took to the streets in Rome.

     

    Q. We are currently working on this project in the hope to reveal “existent” sexual violence in the church and “connect” the victim's voice. What is your dream church like? Please leave a message for your juniors following the anti-violence movement in the church!
    Q. 현재 ‘있는’ 교회 내 성폭력을 가시화하고, 피해자의 목소리를 ‘잇는’ 교회를 꿈꾸며 본 프로젝트를 진행하고 있습니다. 당신이 꿈꾸는 교회는 어떤 모습인가요? 교회 내 반성폭력 운동을 잇는 후배들에게 해주시고 싶은 한 말씀을 남겨주세요!
    Revealing sexual violence in the church and connecting survivors, that’s essentially what SNAP has done for the past 30+ years. It is true that not all, but most of our members have come not to want to be a part of or a member of an institutional church. Many of them remain spiritual, but not religious. Truthfully, I don’t see myself for going back to the church, but if I did, it would have to be a church where truth and accountability come first before all. The church to me is not the clergy, the church is not the buildings, the church is the community of believers who come together to worship. If you don’t have truth and accountability, then you’re not protecting the church -- the community -- and that’s what you need to protect. So that would be my ideal church. Maybe if any church would ever achieve that, then I might go back, but certainly in the years since I’ve been involved, it’s been almost 30 year next year, I haven’t seen that. Some groups are better than others, but all of them have this tendency of discounting the survivors’ voices. At first, it was very painful to not be able to be in church, but as time has gone on, it’s a blessing that I don’t have to go. All I want to say to you is that keep doing what you’re doing, keep trying 
    to expose abusers, keep the survivors connected. The one important lesson though that you may not have thought of is that you guys are young, not old like me, but you’re in marathon. So, if there comes a time, a point in your life where you need to focus on school, family or health, you can step back and if you have a group of you, it’ll be okay if you step back because the others are still moving forward. Then you can rejoin when you’re able. Self care is very important, particularly if you’re survivors involved in this movement. It’s difficult to listen to stories, terrible stories of abuse, and if it’s hard for you, then step back. Maybe your gift leads to just some other area, maybe you write the best grant proposals. Maybe you can organize things, you can stand with your signs. People need to recognize their own gifts and their own limitations. Do what’s best for you. Don’t go so far in that you burn yourselves out. Pace yourselves. This is not easy and it’s not instant.

     

     

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