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La Luz Del Mundo leader held on all counts of rape, child pornography and sex trafficking

LA Times

Matthew Ormseth

August 21, 2020路6 min read

Naason Joaquin Garcia at his bail hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Naas贸n Joaquin Garcia, leader of the Guadalajara-based La Luz del Mundo church, at his bail hearing in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 5. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

One after another, the agents from the California Department of Justice took the witness stand and related what the teenage girls and young women had told them: Naas贸n Joaquin Garcia, the leader of La Luz Del Mundo, an international church headquartered in Mexico, had raped them.

After five days of testimony, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen on Tuesday found that prosecutors from the California Attorney General’s office had gathered enough evidence to bind over for trial Garcia and two co-defendants, Alondra Ocampo and Susana Oaxaca, on all 36 counts of rape, child pornography, sex trafficking and extortion lodged against them.

All three have pleaded not guilty, arguing through their lawyers that the prosecution’s case rests on the untested, uncorroborated word of accusers whom the authorities have refused to identify.

Garcia, a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, succeeded his father in 2014 as the leader of La Luz Del Mundo. The church’s followers, said to number in the millions, consider Garcia an “apostle” of Jesus Christ.

La Luz Del Mundo, Spanish for “The Light of the World,” was founded nearly a century ago by Garcia’s grandfather, Aar贸n Joaqu铆n. In court papers, prosecutors said they believe sexual abuse has been perpetrated within La Luz Del Mundo since the 1970s.

When he took control of the church six years ago, Garcia “found himself at the head of an organized sex ring originated by his father (or perhaps grandfather),'” Troy Holmes, a special agent for the California Department of Justice, wrote in a declaration.

In a statement, Jack Freeman, a minister and spokesman for the church, said the attorney general’s office has presented only “suspicions” based on “anonymous witnesses alleging outlandish claims.”

“Blatant hearsay does not amount to truth,” he said, predicting that as the case moves through the courts, “the innocence and honorability of the Apostle of Jesus Christ Naas贸n Joaquin Garcia will be proven.” Story continues鈥


The impact of sexual violence and abuse on victim-survivors and their families

By Hannah Pocock, Bravehearts Youth Advisory Council member

Sexual violence is, unfortunately, more common and prevalent than society would like to believe. An estimated 31,118 Australians reported being sexually assaulted in 2021, and shockingly, 61% of those victim-survivors who reported were under the age of 18 when the assault occurred. These statistics are horrific and are only a snapshot of the sexual assault and violence that occurs as so many incidents go unreported and people suffer in silence. It is important to remember that these statistics are real women, men, and children in our community who deserve and need support.

This month is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and I thought I would share some of my thoughts. The reason why I am so passionate about preventing sexual violence and child sexual abuse, is because I have personally witnessed the devastating impact of these crimes. My family鈥檚 experience is not unique or special, and I naively thought that something as horrific as sexual abuse would never happen in our family. Although it鈥檚 been 5 years since a family member disclosed the abuse they had suffered, we still deal with the trauma every single day.

For the brave victim-survivor, not only do they have to deal with the abuse they suffered and disclosing it, but they also face the daunting process of reporting to police if they wish, and the possible criminal process beyond that. The systems in place that are supposed to protect, serve, and deliver justice, failed us immensely. And I doubt we are the only ones who have experienced this. The pursuit of justice and trying to hold the perpetrator accountable was so painful that it makes sense why victim-survivors don鈥檛 want to go through the process at all.

My family鈥檚 experience is why I am so motivated for change and passionate about raising awareness of sexual violence and abuse. Imagine a world where perpetrators are held accountable, the criminal justice process is trauma-informed and minimally re-traumatising as possible. Imagine a world where victim-survivors are believed from the outset and supported through the whole process. I hope that by sharing my story it helps others not to feel so alone. I hope that it can spark some real and definite change so no other victim-survivors and their families have to experience what my family did.

To all the victim-survivors: you are believed, you are worthy of support and healing, and what happened to you was not your fault. To all the families and supporters: you are important, you are valued and your story matters too.

About Hannah

Hannah is a fourth-year psychology student who鈥檚 passionate about child safety and protection. She has a keen interest in the Queensland justice system and how it can be reformed so victims of abuse are listened to, taken seriously and justice is given. She loves her casual job at a doggy day-care and enjoys reading in her spare time.

RETRIEVED BraveHearts https://bravehearts.org.au/the-impact-of-sexual-violence-and-abuse-on-victim-survivors-and-their-families/