DES MOINES, Iowa – It’s Saturday morning, and Smokey Row Cafe is full the sounds of footsteps and coffee cups clanking down on ceramic plates. It’s a busy atmosphere, but in the noise, a small group of survivors are huddled in a back corner, hoping to meet some new faces.
The Iowa SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) group isn’t a large organization, but it’s a resource of support for anyone who needs it. People like John Chambers, who says he was abused by a priest while attending Dowling Catholic High School in the 1960s, joined SNAP only after the group was highlighted by a Boston Globe investigative report in 2002, uncovering a massive scandal within the Boston Archdiocese to cover up sexual abuse claims.
It’s that same group that’s highlighted in the Oscar Award-winning film, “Spotlight.” The 2015 film documents the true story of the Boston Globe’s uphill battle to uncover the truth. In the movie, a member of SNAP talks with Globe reporters about his experiences being abused in the church as a child. With the film’s success, local SNAP members are hoping more abused Iowans will come out of the shadows.
“If you need a therapist, if you need an attorney, if you need just a support group of other survivors that you want to meet with – any of these things, to recognize that there’s a community already out there that knows what you went through,” said Bill LaHay with Iowa SNAP. “A community out there that isn’t going to say, ‘Get over it.’ Or isn’t going to tell you, ‘No it didn’t happen.’ Isn’t going to do the stuff that non-survivors just can’t know.”
LaHay and Chambers were both at Iowa SNAP’s meeting Saturday morning in Des Moines. Unfortunately, no new faces showed up. LaHay says he’s not too surprised, given how hard it is for people to come forward about allegations regarding sexual abuse.
“The downside with that is, that means all of these perpetrators, all of these abusers, nobody comes forward and names them,” he said.
With Spotlight’s success, LaHay hopes more people will find the courage to seek help.
“Since that movie came out, I’ve received three calls,” LaHay said. “I normally get maybe three calls in a year!”