Survivors' Group Addresses Former Priest's Murder Conviction

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WESLACO – The memory of Irene Garza lives on for many across the nation. An organization that followed her story for decades said Garza’s case is now being used as an example to speak out.

The organization, called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP, said the closure of this case brings out an increase in calls from those in need of help.

Organizers said abuse of another is not confined to a certain category.

"We discovered it's not just Catholic priests. It’s nuns, it’s brothers, it’s ministers, it’s rabbis. It’s in almost every denomination,” said SNAP Executive Director Barbara Dorris.

SNAP started in 1988. Organizers said they thought only a few hundred cases of priest abuse existed. But Dorris explained the numbers have increased.

“As we began talking to survivors and becoming more well-known; we currently have over 25,000 members from almost every country in the world,” she said.

SNAP is an organization made up of survivors of abuse and supporters. They guide others to seek law enforcement and counselors.

Dorris said the conviction of former priest John Feit shows hope is not lost.

"We think it's a very important case because it says to survivors don't give up hope. It may have happened a long time ago but survivors are beginning to find justice and prosecutors are beginning to be more active,” said Dorris.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS asked Dorris if SNAP has seen an increase in the number of calls since the case reopened.

“Yes, yes we have and we have people saying – as a matter of fact, I was answering an email when you called. A man saying we have to change the statute of limitations so more cases like these – when it doesn’t involve murder – can go forward. Murder has no statue but sexual abuse does,” said Dorris.

Dorris wants survivors to come forward.

"Carrying this secret is a terrible burden,” she said.

Dorris wants to make sure others do not become victims before it’s too late.

"When a case like this happens and the outcome is that the predator was convicted. It's like, it frees others to tell,” she said.

Former priest John Feit is still in the Hidalgo County jail. He's waiting to be transferred to a state prison.


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