As allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests started piling up in the Netherlands earlier this year, Bert Smeets, a 58-year-old Dutch musician, decided to launch an organization to bring victims of church abuse together.
Two months later, Smeets‘ group — called Mea Culpa — has received 700 calls and e-mails from people across the Netherlands who, like him, say they were abused by priests as children.
In Germany, where hundreds of church sexual abuse allegations have surfaced since January — church-abuse victim Norbert Denef started his own victims‘ group late last month. Called Network B, the organization has been contacted by hundreds of alleged victims of priest abuse in its first few weeks of existence.
In a half dozen countries across Europe, new victims‘ groups are springing up in response to an unprecedented wave of sex abuse allegations aimed at the Catholic Church. Though such groups have been active in the United States for more than a decade, they are just now forming in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and elsewhere in Europe.