I remember the first time I heard the name of Pat mentioned it was by a friend that had known her for many years. She described Pat as terrified of the Watchtower organization from the abuse she had suffered when she attempted to seek assistance for what happened to her when she was a child.
Pat in good faith had written letters to the Service Department dating back to 1994 identifying her molester and trying to seek justice for other victims that she knew this man molested. What the response? They started a series of correspondence that put her off, attempted to ignore her allegations, sent local elders to threaten her, and finally in or around 1997, resulted in a "special" meeting with a District and Circuit Overseer. At last she thought she would get a hearing ear as well as a proper investigation to bring about justice. What happened? There was no interest in hearing her story or finding the truth, instead, Pat was basically told she was demonized and if she said anything more or wrote any more letters she would be disfellowshipped.
A part of Pat died that day she realized that the people in charge were controlled by evil men. The Circuit Overseer that was part of the "special" meeting is now a member of the governing body. As a result, for Pat it created a fear and paranoia for anyone in authority from the organization. This fear drove her into hiding she feared her phone was being tapped and that she was being watched. When I first talked to Pat she called me from a pay phone being too fearful that someone was listening from her home telephone. After a few conversations and just letting her know that she was believed I could feel Pat start to grow stronger. One day she called me from her home telephone it was a major step for her in taking back the power that was taken away. Not long after that there was a conference in her area. Pat asked to attend to meet me in person. She would be in disguise due to the continued fear but she wanted to meet me. When she arrived in a scarf and sunglasses, I gave her a big hug and she began to cry, I just held her as she shook uncontrollably for a few minutes. I could feel the pain and fear being released as she was surrounded by support and friends. At the conference I gave a talk and after doing so Pat asked to be able to speak. Still in disguise and looking so fragile, shaking like a leaf, she started to speak about what happened to her. Pat was still controlled by her fears so she altered certain things in what she stated to protect others involved as well as to protect herself. She did the best she could do and I was so proud of how far she had come. It was like seeing a small flame leap to life and start to grow in intensity. She cried as she talked, but she continued, she fought her way through it and finished what she wanted to say. Afterward after a big hug I told her how proud we were of her, in her eyes was a sparkle that had not been there before, it was a confidence and hope born from being believed.
After the conference Pat started to call me on a regular basis and talk about what more she could do. You could feel her strength continue to grow. About four months later Erica Garza's court retrial came up and I called for people to come and support her. Pat lived about five hours away but she was one of the first to let me know she was going to be there. She had no money but she found a way to get there and we were grateful for the assistance of others that attended that helped her to have accommodations and food. When Pat first met Erica she gave her a big hug right in front of the Dateline cameras, it was a huge moment when her fears were overcome to support someone as a fellow abuse survivor. It meant much to Erica to have Pat and around thirty other people there to support her when previously over seventy Jehovah's Witnesses had been present to support the child molester. On the other hand it was powerful for Pat to be there with the group and know she was part of the support for Erica. When we came back a month later for the sentencing hearing, again Pat was there. The judge asked if anyone wanted to speak on Erica's behalf. I of course volunteered along with others, but much to my surprise Pat she wanted to go on record and speak for Erica. This was a major step for Pat as it represented her first time to go public as an advocate and speak for someone else on abuse. I will never forget as Pat approached the podium, she seemed so fragile as her hands shook and she paused a moment to get her composure. I thought she was going to walk away for a moment, but instead she began to speak, timid a first, but as she talked her voice got stronger and stronger. Her words were so powerful by the end she was no longer frail fragile Pat but she seemed like a roaring lion as she spoke about something she believed with all her heart. I was stunned, was this the person just six months ago was too afraid to speak to me on her telephone? She was forever changed and I was helped to see the power of support and belief, the reason that silentlambs was important in the lives of so many. You can listen to the trial testimony of Pat on this audio recording found on the silentlambs website.
After that day Pat went home with a new strength. She called her local radio, newspaper and television stations. She did interviews with all three bravely speaking out on abuse issues and no longer living in fear. She was not cured of the damage done to her as a child, sometimes she would call and cry as she talked, I would listen and offer support sometimes that is all you can do. It seemed Pat now lived with purpose and while her fears were never completely subdued she felt it was more important to speak out to help others than to live in silence. Her congregation punished her as a result they would not speak to her in public, openly shunning her to let her know of their disapproval. Did this intimidate Pat? She spoke to me about confronting her PO about he and his wife's behavior toward her, she let him have it with both barrels. The PO was the one that could not find the words to say and who looked like the cowards they come to be when confronted with the truth.
Pat loved Jehovah and read the Bible on a regular basis. She often prayed for help and strength to speak out and make sure what she said was in the right way to help others. If you listen to what she accomplished you would no doubt see her prayers were answered.
When the silentlambs march was arranged Pat immediately wanted to attend. Once again kind and generous supporters of silentlambs helped Pat and many others to attend. It was never suggested to Pat that she was in anyway needed to speak about her allegations of being molested by Ted Jaracz. Pat was awarded the silentlambs "courage" award along with twelve other recipients. When you consider what is written above can you now understand why Pat was given this recognition? Pat was a shining example that all abuse survivors could learn from. In the time frame allocated at the front of the 25 building there was a point where anyone was given the opportunity to speak out about their abuse. A number of different came forward and made comments, one of that number, happened to be Pat. I did not know what she was going to say but I had confidence it would be powerful. Pat bravely identified her molester on the front step of where he lived. This little woman had taken the final step in taking back the power that was taken away by men in positions in the organization threatening her into fear and silence. If you see the video (you can order it from silentlambs) you can see Pat shaking once again, but this time it is not in fear it is rage. You can feel it in her voice, you can see it in her eyes you can see it in her hands clenched tightly around the bullhorn. It was good Ted Jaracz hid that day for if Pat had caught him on the street it would not have been a pretty sight. Pat was happy to speak out and identify what happened to her, she hoped it would empower others to know they could speak out and no longer live in fear of what powerful men in the organization had done to them. Pat was the first it was her courage in being willing to put herself out to try and help others that helped her find redemption from fear.
When Pat spoke in New York on September 27, 2002 she knew she had cancer and had been given six months to live. She knew this might be the last chance she would have to go on the record with the information she had held quiet for so long. It was important for her to know that when she did this as always silentlambs would support and believe her. As with all abuse survivors, silentlambs believes all stories of abuse, we of course realize in many cases due to certain circumstances not all abusers will go to jail nor will justice be served but victims will never be questioned about their allegations. Support and belief empowers abuse survivors that stand up and take back the power that was taken away. Pat is living proof of a person that came so far with that belief and support.
Pat fought the cancer in the best way she could, sadly she passed away in June of 2003. Till the end Pat maintained a strong reliance on Jehovah through prayer and the Bible. Not one Jehovah's Witness offered to assist her in any way through her illness and not one offered to conduct or attend her funeral, though Pat died as a Jehovah's Witness in good standing. Pat's life was not based on approval of misguided people instead I believe her life, though horribly damaged by abuse, was a life of purpose. She never gave up trying to seek justice and endeavoring to speak out to help others. Pat was a hero to abuse survivors for overcoming her fear and bravely speaking out to help others know they are not alone.
Pat Garza was my friend.