Photo Credits:The Splendor of the Church
Moriah Hughes was only 14-years-old when then-25-year-old Elihu Rodriguez sexually abused her. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to raping two underage girls he met through the Jehovah's Witness congregation they all belonged to.
NBC News reports: Elihu Rodriguez, 32, of Yakima, Washington, was given five years, the maximum sentence prosecutors had asked for, after Rodriguez pleaded guilty to three felony counts of child rape in the third degree in September. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender. Both of his victims attended the sentencing, which took place last Friday at the King County Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.
Hughes told NBC News after Rodriguez was sentenced that she "felt fantastic" knowing he was going to be behind bars.
"It’s finally over. This chapter is finally closed," she said. "I can continue my life knowing that the trauma was worth it. I didn’t go through this for nothing. I was justified."
It’s not easy at all for the victim to seek justice in sexual abuse cases, especially in organization such as the Jehovah’s Witness. The girl reported sexual abuse to three elders at the Fairfield Kingdom Hall and they "basically told her that it was her fault. “They told me that I wasn't sorry enough to God for what I had done," said Smith, who has since left the religion and works in the Spokane, Washington area as an administrative assistant in a private medical company. "They talked about putting Jehovah first, putting God first in your life, and I wasn't, apparently, doing that to their standards."
"I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat and when I did I was so on edge, the smallest upset would cause me to purge whatever I had consumed into the nearest toilet," Hughes, 22, said in a victim impact statement, adding that she was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and that something as benign-seeming as cologne that smelled like Rodriguez's would cause her to have a debilitating panic attack.
Various individuals, courts and the media around the world have raised concerns about the manner in which cases of child sexual abuse are handled when they occur in congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses' congregational judicial policies require the testimony of two material witnesses to establish a perpetrator's serious sin in the absence of confession. The organization considers this policy to be a protection against malicious accusations of sexual assault. For instance, this year, church elders in New Zealand were told to destroy documents, causing survivors of child sex abuse to fear that cases will be covered up. The organization maintained that documents relevant to cases of abuse would not be destroyed.
Hughes is now working with attorney Irwin Zalkin, whose San Diego law firm has been litigating against Jehovah's Witnesses across the country for nearly two decades, to file a civil suit against the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Let's hope that sexual abuse does not happen, and if it does, that the perpetrator will be severely punished, no matter what organization he belongs to.