Barbara Blaine
Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests speaks outside of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Aug. 31, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress

Barbara Blaine, who founded the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and was also the former president of the organization, died Sunday in Utah at the age of 61, the support group confirmed.

Last Monday, Blaine suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, her family said in a statement to Reuters. The rare condition involves a tear in one or more blood vessels in the heart of the patient.

The managing director of SNAP, Barbara Dorris, issued a statement Sunday regarding Blaine's contribution and pioneer work for the survivors of clergy sexual abuse. "Few people have done more to protect kids and help victims than Barbara Blaine. 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. She started-and for almost 30 years-worked extremely hard to help build the world’s most successful organization of child sex abuse victims. Her contributions to a safer society would be hard to overstate," Dorris wrote on SNAP's official page.

People on social media expressed their condolences for the woman who helped numerous survivors of abuse.

SNAP was founded by Blaine in 1988, years after she was allegedly abused by a priest who taught her at the Catholic school in Toledo, Ohio. She was in 8th grade at the time of the alleged abuse, according to the New York Times. Toledo's bishops declined to help her and her pleas were ignored at the time.

The first ever SNAP meeting involving victims of clergy sexual abuse was held at a Chicago hotel the same year it was founded. "I knew there were other survivors out there and wondered if they felt the same debilitating hurt and if so, how they coped with it. I thought they might hold the wisdom I lacked. I looked for other survivors and asked if they would be willing to talk," Blaine had said in a statement in February, according to ABC7 News.

Presently, SNAP has over 20,000 members and support groups have meetings in more than 60 cities across the United States and the world. Blaine resigned from her post in the organization in February; however, she did not specify a reason. But Blaine and other SNAP officials faced a lawsuit in January before her resignation by a former employee, who claimed she had been fired after asking superiors if SNAP was referring potential clients to attorneys in return for donations to the organization. However, Blaine denied the claim and said her resignation was not anyway related to the lawsuit, according to Reuters.

The group came into the spotlight in 2002 after The Boston Globe investigated stories on priest sexual abuse scandal, which brought several allegations to the fore against the Roman Catholic Church and the priests. The 2015 film "Spotlight," which won the Oscar for best picture, told the story of Boston Globe journalists who investigated the abuse and cover-ups in the Roman Catholic Church. It also included a character from SNAP.

Here are some of Blaine’s famous sayings about SNAP, abuse, and the victims, to remember her contributions to building a safer society.

  • "It's interesting. There is a concern for Catholic values outside of the Church, but not within the Church... We are the faithful Catholic sons and daughters who were raped and sodomized by priests that our parents trusted," she said referring to reports of abuse by priests.
  • "There is no amount of money that can undo the pain that we have suffered," she said talking about the victims of abuse.
  • "We're here to prevent any further pain and suffering. We believe that at this time Catholics across the globe deserve the right to reflect on the life of and to mourn the passing of Pope John Paul II without this embarrassing and painful topic of the sex abuse scandal coming into play," she said when Cardinal George Pell was accused of sexual abuse in June.