After suffering in silence for decades, survivors of clergy sexual abuse are now speaking out and have formed a peer support group to help others do the same.
While doing so, the Buffalo Survivors Group hopes to educate the public about the signs of abuse.
The group met for the first time Thursday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in East Amherst, at a time when many are watching to see whether Bishop Richard Malone is going to resign.
For many in that room, the abuse they endured may have happened years ago, but the wounds are still fresh.
"We're all in a club that I don't think we signed up for," said Angelo Ervolina, one of five founders and an abuse survivor.
Many of the survivors, including group co-founder Gary Astridge, brought photos of the time when the abuse occurred.
"That's my little brother that I'm standing up for now,” Astridge said. "It just affected me on so many levels."
Just months ago, Ervolina revealed the alleged abuse that he suffered as an altar boy at the hands of Monsignor Michael Harrington.
Ervolina said he was 10 when he was abused by Bishop James A. McNulty in the early 1960s but no action was taken then.
He said he found the courage to speak out when others like advocate and survivor Michael Whalen did.
"Being a victim, you don't forget certain things," he said.
Whalen, another of the group’s founders, hopes this support helps others come forward.
"This is what it's about," said Whalen. "It’s the healing, this is a big part of it; to know that you are not alone."
Whalen was the first to come forward in Buffalo two years ago with his story of abuse.
He said his memories of abuse followed him throughout his life.
Whalen dealt with drugs and alcohol and the abuse ruined his first marriage and his career in the armed forces.
Since coming forward, Whalen said he's able to enjoy some of the most basic things in life, like his family.
He is now welcoming new members to his family — survivors just like him.
"I've met so many people from around the country who just want to share their story and what happened to them,” he said.