A Catholic priest from Tipton is starting a support group for people who’ve been abused by priests. Father David Hitch says a former priest in the Davenport area abused someone in his family years ago. “My brother was abused by James Janssen and so I was very much involved after I found out and I only found out a couple of years ago when he was ready to start talking to me about it,” Father Hitch says. “And so I’ve stood by him and walked with him through his whole journey.” A Scott County jury recently found James Janssen guilty of abusing his own nephew. Hitch is one of few priests or nuns who have joined a group called SNAP — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “These are hurting people. They’re been hurt by us, by church,” Hitch says. “My calling is to walk with hurting people and I just don’t understand why more priests and our bishops aren’t out walking with (victims) on their journey, hearing their stories of pain.” Hitch says he’s been counseling victims of abuse and saw a need to help them with their “enormous” pain. “I was aware of SNAP and, in fact, had been involved with them before so I just felt it was needed to have in the Iowa City area or southeast Iowa a SNAP chapter basically to provide support to those who’ve been abused by priests,” he says. A conference on “hope and understanding” will be held June 24th and 25th in Iowa City, and the founder of SNAP will hold a meeting for victims and relatives. Hitch says he’ll be there and set up regular meetings for the group.Hitch, who has been a priest for 38 years, says he’ll be facilitating a gathering a meeting of folks who’ve been abused by priests. He will help those who come make appointments with a professional counselor outside of group meetings. SNAP leaders are praising Hitch as a “man of deep compassion and great courage” for coming forward to lead a support group. Few other SNAP chapters are led by priests. The support meetings are not open to the public, but only to those who’ve been abused by a priest and any family member the victim might bring with them to the session.
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