By Shirley Wentworth
"I'm thrilled," said Rodriguez
after the victory. "I'm hoping the verdict will encourage another
silent lamb to come forward and talk about (what happened to them).
The best self-therapy you can have is to talk about it."
Rodriguez said she believed Beliz, a Jehovah’s Witness elder, had also molested other girls and her whole purpose in coming forward was to keep him from doing it to someone else. She said that even though her church disfellowshipped Beliz—or removed him from the church--for six months, church elders pressured her not to report him to the police. Jehovah's Witnesses say a member cannot be disfellowshipped unless that member has admitted the offense or crime.
Security was tight in the courthouse because of death threats made against Rodriguez during the last trial. Rodriguez, now 22, was best friends with Beliz's daughter. She testified how as a child he would signal to her with two thumps of his hand, which meant for her to go and sit beside him. He would then allegedly begin to touch her and take her hand to touch him-- she not understanding what he was doing. This took place on a weekly basis throughout her childhood,
Barbara Anderson, part of a group fighting clergy-based sex crimes, is one of about 20 advocates from around the country who traveled to Adams County for the trial to lend support to Rodriguez. Anderson previously worked as a research assistant in the Jehovah's Witnesses New York headquarters. She said she gave the Dateline news show, which had a crew covering the Beliz trial, documentation describing how the church's leadership is well aware of sexual child abuse within its organization and helps cover it up.
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