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Barbara Blaine

1956 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Barbara Blaine Obituary
(News story) Barbara Blaine, whose personal path to self healing in the wake of clergy sexual abuse led her to widespread advocacy through the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, died while on vacation in Utah on Sunday. She was 61.

Ms. Blaine died following an unexpected and rare cardiac event known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection, according to a statement provided by her family. She was in good health and enjoyed a hike the day before the sudden episode.

Ms. Blaine founded SNAP in 1988 after coming to terms with her own molestation at the hands of a later defrocked priest, Chet Warren, while she was a young parishioner at St. Pius X Catholic Church and student at Notre Dame Academy. She recalled to The Blade in 2002 that she was working at a Catholic social justice agency in Chicago when she experienced a sudden physiological reaction to articles regarding clergy sexual abuse, which began to recall her own traumatic experiences between eighth and 12th grades.

She organized an initial meeting of victims at a Chicago hotel in 1988, and, encouraged by its success, developed the idea into a national network focused on advocacy and healing. Today SNAP counts more than 20,000 members and support groups in over 60 cities, including Toledo, which was established as the first local chapter in the state in early 2002.

Ms. Blaine did not set out to find a national spotlight, said Claudia Vercellotti, a longtime friend who co-founded the Toledo chapter of SNAP. She initially sought to "heal quietly and privately" by working within the outlets provided by the Catholic Church, Ms. Vercellotti said, but she quickly grew frustrated by a diocesan response that denied her allegations.

"After seven years of being strung along, I realized they were not going to help me," Ms. Blaine told The Blade in 2002, "so I had to help myself. I thought I'd start a group to help people like me."

Ms. Vercellotti praised Ms. Blaine's work as groundbreaking for victims of sexual abuse, attributing to her a legacy that extends within and beyond the Catholic Church.

"There's been a climate shift in this country on how we discuss sexual crime victims and sexual abuse and sexual exploitation," she said. "All of that can be traced, in one way shape or form, to Toledo, Ohio's own Barbara Blaine."

Barbara Dorris, managing director of SNAP, similarly praised Ms. Blaine in a statement.

"Few people have done more to protect kids and help victims than Barbara Blaine," she said "Her relentless advocacy enabled millions to eventually accept a long unbelievable reality: That tens of thousands of priests raped and fondled hundreds of thousands of kids while bishops hid these heinous crimes."

Ms. Blaine settled her own case with the local diocese out of court in 1994 and continued to lead SNAP as president until February, 2017. Her family said in a statement that her resignation came as part of a planned transition to The Accountability Project, which she recently founded to pressure Vatican officials to stop clergy sex crimes internationally.

Ms. Blaine was born in Toledo on July 6, 1956. She received a bachelor's degree through St. Louis University, a master's degree through Washington University in St. Louis, a master's degree in divinity through Catholic Theological Union and a law degree through DePaul University.

Prior to founding SNAP, Ms. Blaine helped establish and run a homeless shelter on the south side of Chicago. She also represented abused and neglected children in juvenile court. She is survived by a husband, Howard; two stepsons, Brett and Joshua; two grandsons, Luke and Wesley, and seven siblings.

Funeral arrangements are pending.
Published in Toledo Blade from Sept. 26 to Oct. 26, 2017
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