Nearly 30 years after starting the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the organization’s founder and president, Barbara Blaine, has stepped down.
Her resignation came as SNAP is embroiled in new legal action, just weeks after a former employee filed a lawsuit alleging the organization engages in a kickback scheme with attorneys.
An email sent to SNAP members on Saturday announced Blaine's resignation, which was effective as of Friday.
"It has been the greatest honor of my life to have found and been your president for the past 29 years," Blaine’s message reads. "Please know that I leave with love in my heart for each of you. I remain your friend."
Blaine founded SNAP in 1988, according to the organization’s website, which says it is the nation’s oldest and largest self-help organization for victims of clergy sexual abuse.
A survivor of assault herself, Blaine first began holding SNAP meetings in a homeless shelter she ran in Chicago. She told NBC 5 that she made the decision to resign because it’s "time for a break."
"I've been doing this for 29 years," she said, adding that "there’s no right time" to step down.
"I'm going to take a break, I'm committed to exposing truths," Blaine told NBC 5 over the phone Saturday. "But the day to day, I need a break."
Blaine was named as a defendant, along with SNAP’s outreach director Barbara Dorris and former executive director David Clohessy, in a lawsuit filed by former director of development Gretchen Hammond.
Hammond filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court on Jan. 17, alleging that the organization referred victims of abuse by clergy members to attorneys in exchange for financial kickbacks from the ensuing settlements.
Clohessy announced his resignation from the organization the following week, though SNAP said in a statement that his resignation, effective Dec. 31, was submitted "long before the lawsuit was filed."
"The lawsuit had nothing to do with me stepping down," Blaine told NBC 5 on Saturday, echoing SNAP’s statement following Clohessy’s departure, adding "This is something that has been in the works for a long time."
"We have been sued so many times, every time we win," she said. "It takes awhile for the lawsuit to work their way through the court; they haven't even served us yet."
"Please know that the recent lawsuit filed against SNAP, as the others in the past which have no merit, had absolutely no bearing on my leaving," Blaine’s email to SNAP members concludes. "The discussions and process of my departure has been ongoing."
According to her email, SNAP will be moving from a "founder led organization to one that is board led."