A national organization that provides support to thousands of victims of clergy sex abuse is establishing a chapter in Lexington.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the group wants to help victims speak out and find healing.
“Our first priority is always self-help. It’s giving people the courage and strength to recover,” Clohessy said in an interview in Lexington yesterday.
A survivor of clergy sex abuse and one of four victims who addressed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops before it passed a national sex-abuse policy, Clohessy has been a leading voice on the issue.
Founded 13 years ago in St. Louis, SNAP has 45 chapters nationwide and claims a membership of 4,500.
The Fayette chapter is being organized by Lexington resident Kay Montgomery, who says she was sexually abused by a priest when she was attending the Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Ind.
In May, Montgomery and four others filed a lawsuit against the dioceses of Lexington and Covington, alleging sexual abuse by priests in those dioceses.
About 200 sex-abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“I want victims to know that there are people who understand and know what they’re suffering,” Montgomery said. “If they’re out there and need someone to talk to, they don’t need to suffer in silence.”
Montgomery said many victims are afraid to come forward, terrified they won’t be believed. “We need to break down that fear,” she added.
Catholic officials in Lexington say they hope SNAP is able to help people.
“It’s certainly a group that serves many people in the church and a group that’s needed at this time in our church’s history,” said the Rev. Paul Prabell, rector at Cathedral of Christ the King.
“Certainly we’re in favor of victims of abuse receiving support,” said Lexington Diocese spokesman Tom Shaughnessy.
Since 1994, the diocese has encouraged victims to come forward and has offered them free professional counseling, Shaugh-nessy said.