Archdiocese to sponsor support group for victims/survivors

| July 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

Organizers hope specifically to reach men harmed by clergy

For many victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse, the pain doesn’t end with therapy sessions. That’s what leaders of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have learned in speaking with victims/survivors and what prompted a pilot support group that organizers hope will bring victims/survivors closer to healing.

Beginning in September, the archdiocese plans to sponsor a series of eight weekly sessions for male victims of clergy sexual abuse. Jane Braun, a victims assistance consultant for the archdiocese, said that by first offering the group for men, a large population of victims from a 30-year span could receive the help they need.

“In huge numbers, males do not come forward,” explained Braun, who worked in child protection for 38 years in Ramsey County.

Deacon Rip Riordan, survivor assistance director for the archdiocese, said male victims have specifically asked for a single-gender support group.

Aside from receiving mental health services, Braun said victims benefit from knowing others share similar experiences. That’s where the support group comes in.

Group sharing “shows a lot of positives because, hopefully, people in this group will have some things that really worked for them that are very different from one another,” Braun said.

Braun described the group’s purpose as psycho-educational — some time will be spent addressing a certain topic, such as anger, fear or resentment, which are common emotions victims have. Then, the group will discuss it together: “What happened to you when you had these feelings? What did you do? What worked for you?” Braun said.

Independent professionals experienced in working with victims/survivors of sexual abuse will facilitate the groups, and information shared in the sessions will be kept confidential, Braun said. After each session, facilitators will survey the group to gauge efficacy.

To recruit participants, Tim O’Malley, the archdiocese’s director of ministerial standards and safe environment, has contacted victims directly and asked St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents some abuse victims/survivors, to share information about the support group with clients. Information also will be advertised in parishes. People who sign up for the support group will remain anonymous.

Because facilitators want to limit the size to 16 people, anyone interested who isn’t part of the initial group will be added to a waiting list.

Braun hopes to keep cycling the group so that it’s offered three times a year. If the initial group is successful, organizers will share information and resources with parishes.

To participate, people should contact Canvas Health, the archdiocese’s third-party provider of assistance for victims/survivors, at (651) 291-4497. Before signing up for the support group, victims/survivors will have the opportunity to meet with the facilitators where the sessions will take place. Organizers hope this will decrease any potential anxiety.

Braun noted that Canvas Health serves as the “common entry point” for victims/survivors in the archdiocese.

“It’s victims first — how can they best be served,” she said.

A ninth, voluntary session will be offered with Deacon Riordan for anyone who wants to converse more about faith matters.

“All change begins with listening,” Deacon Riordan said. “And when you listen, you have to respond. Most of ministry is ministry of presence, not avoidance.”

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Category: Local News