A Chicago-based organization which offers support for victims of clergysex abuse will be holding three confidential counseling sessions in thearea over the next three months.
TheSurvivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) plans to hostmeetings Sept. 17 in New Concord, Oct. 15 in Columbus and Nov. 19 inCambridge, said Judy Jones, SNAP leader for southeastern Ohio.
Despite the word "priests" in the group's name, the organization helps anyone hurt by religious figures in any denomination. Jones said there are many victims of clergy abuse in the area, from Zanesville to Marietta.
"Thehardest part is getting them to come forward. It's very close-mouthedin small communities," said Jones, a Woodsfield native who now lives inMissouri.
Jones said it has been hard to schedule sessions in thearea - three have been held so far - because victims of abuse don'twant others to see them going to the meetings.
"That's why wethought if we could find someplace central, like the Cambridge orZanesville area, it would be easier for people," she said. "We don'twant to be in locations near Catholic churches. We want people to knowwe are providing a safe place for them."
Though she doesn't havea solid number, she said the number of victims in southeastern Ohio shehas become aware of "blows my mind."
Another problem is keeping track of where priests accused of abuse have come and gone from.
"It'sa big problem, because they will go to an area, and then be gone. Andodds are, if they've been somewhere, they've abused there," she said.
Areaco-leader, Helen Schoeppner, led a previous session in Marietta. Afamily member of Schoeppner's was abused by a priest decades ago.
"Itis important that a safe place is created for victims to come forward,break their silence, know they aren't alone and begin to recover," shesaid. "We want to let survivors know there's someone to talk to aboutit and we can help them get help."