Last Friday, Rev. Geronimo Aguilar, pastor of the Richmond Outreach Center, was extradited to Forth Worth, Texas where is he has been charged with seven felonies relating to the sexual abuse of two minors.
We are here today outside the Richmond Police Department headquarters for three reasons:
First, we demand that the church board publically apologize for a statement they published last Thursday. The board states that they believe the accusations of abuse to be completely untrue. They asked for prayers for Aguilar and his family but don’t mention the pain and suffering of the possible victims. Publically supporting the accused perpetrator is not only hurtful to the victims but very intimidating to other possible victims. Instead the church should withhold judgment or back him quietly. We also hope they will use their resources to reach out to anyone who may have been harmed by Aguilar.
Second, we urge church members and the public to “keep open minds.” We ask them to remember that the vast majority of accusations of childhood sexual abuse prove to be true, to educate themselves and their families about sexual abuse, to pray for all parties involved and finally to put themselves in the shoes of the alleged victim.
Third, and most importantly, we want to urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered Aguilar’s crimes to contact police. Only when perpetrators are exposed are children safe.
When my abuser was fist accused church members and church officials publically supported him and expressed their total disbelief that he was a child molester. Because of that I was afraid to come forward. What if I wasn’t believed, what if people thought it was my fault, what if they thought I was a bad person I could go on and on. Victims live with tremendous shame, guilt and fear. It takes a great deal of courage to come forward. My heart goes out to the two victims who found the strength to come forward. I hope their action encourages others who may have been sexually abused by Aguilar or any religious figure to come forward to organizations like SNAP and to the police. Please know you are not alone.
Statement by Becky Ianni, Virginia director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (703 801 6044, SNAPvirginia@gmail.com)