David Clohessy and SNAP: Ten Years After Gaining Celebrity

Categories: Media

people magazine cover 2002 small.jpg
Ten year's ago this month David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was named one of the world's "25 Most Intriguing" by People magazine.

Included in that 2002 class were actors and performers such as George Clooney and Britney Spears, world leaders the likes of Saddam Hussein and Jimmy Carter, athletes Serena Williams and Pat Tillman (the football player who'd recently left the NFL to serve in the Army but had yet to die of friendly fire) and a few Regular Joes such as Clohessy.

Last week Daily RFT caught up with Clohessy, to discuss what the People magazine designation meant at the time, what SNAP has accomplished since then, and what challenges still lie ahead for the St. Louis-based organization that continues to garner international headlines for exposing child sex abuse.

Daily RFT: SNAP has been around since 1988. But what changed in 2002 that even a celebrity magazine such as People had to write about you?

David Clohessy: 2002 was a crazy, crazy year. The Boston Globe had done this huge investigative series -- literally hundreds of stories -- about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. And all of the sudden the topic became the burning, Page One story in newspaper after newspaper after newspaper all across the county. And that is only reason why someone from SNAP was in People magazine.

It was an amazing time for us. We went from a situation where we -- SNAP -- would not get our phone calls returned to where we couldn't possibly return all the calls we were getting. There would be nights that I'd clear my cell phone voice mail before going to bed, and I'd wake up the next morning and my voicemail would be so full again it wouldn't take any more messages.

How exactly did the People profile come about?

They contacted me and said they want to do a story about me and my work and it will run toward the end of the year. They certainly didn't say you've been chosen as one of our 25 most-intriguing people. Crazy thing was I was in an airport in Salt Lake City or Las Vegas -- I forget which -- headed out to Idaho to see my in-laws for Christmas. I'm standing in line at an airport store buying a bottle of water when I saw the cover of People and I thought to myself, "Oh man, they didn't put me in that list, did they?" I opened the cover and doubled over with laughter.

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People's mini-profile of Clohessy in December 2002 that recounted his own abuse at the hands of a priest.
People didn't award you with a plaque or host a party for you and all the other intriguing folks?

Nope. I invited all my fellow list-makers to a party at my house, but they didn't show up. Just kidding. A reporter, David Gibson, at the Newark Star Ledger, wrote an article about SNAP being included in the list. I joked that the magazine asked Britney Spears to expose her midriff and didn't even ask to see mine!


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