By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) - Barbara Blaine, who founded the 'Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests' and led the organization until earlier this year, died on Sunday at age 61 in Utah, her family and the organization said.
Blaine suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection last Monday, her family said in a statement. The rare occurrence involves a tear in one or more blood vessels of the heart.
She died on Sunday with her husband, Howard, and her sisters at her side, the family statement said.
The organization she founded in 1988 is a leading advocacy and support group for victims of sexual abuse by clergy. It has thousands of members and works to help people from a range of faith traditions.
Blaine, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, held her first meetings of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests (SNAP) in a homeless shelter that she ran in Chicago. At the time, Blaine was part of the Catholic Worker Movement.
"Few people have done more to protect kids and help victims than Barbara Blaine," Barbara Dorris, the managing director of SNAP, said in a statement.
As a child, Blaine was abused by a priest at the Catholic school she attended in Toledo, but she was unable to tell anyone about it for years because of the shame and trauma she experienced, according to her biography on the website of SNAP.
Blaine resigned as president of SNAP in February, after she was named in a lawsuit that accused SNAP officials of connecting attorneys with potential clients in return for financial kickbacks to SNAP, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.
Blaine said then that her resignation as president was unrelated to the lawsuit, the newspaper reported.
The 2015 film "Spotlight," which won the Oscar for best picture and portrayed the true story of Boston Globe journalists investigating abuse and cover ups in the Roman Catholic Church, included a character from SNAP.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Chopra)