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“The pain and suffering (the victim) had to go through really strikes a chord with all of us and we don’t want to see any of our peers going through that,” said one Bedford High School student who has been talking to other students about finding ways to reach out to the victim.
The student, who asked not to be identified because of the heightened emotions surrounding the case, said he hopes the school can find a way to rebuild trust.
“In my opinion, the counselors should have the ability to reach out and clarify to the victim that although their words created additional pain, that wasn’t their intent and they do not condone the behavior of their former colleague. They should acknowledge that all of that should have been included in their statement.
“The same standards that we are held to as students should also apply to the staff that we look up to. If someone makes a mistake they should be able to own it and do whatever is needed to rebuild trust,” he said, adding that from a student perspective “watching the process of what they do to address it is more valuable than having everyone fired and thinking that will solve the problem.”
Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the NHCADSV, worries about the potential consequences of these individuals serving in positions where they are responsible for creating safe environments for our children.
“The actions of these professionals not only revictimized the young survivor in this case but also threatened the safety of the children in communities across New Hampshire and Vermont, who are less likely to report abuse when they believe that adults will not support or believe them when they come forward,” she said.
"They send a message to other children that they won't be believed and supported when they come forward," said Madison Lightfoot of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The coalition called some of the views outlined in the letters alarming, including one in which a sex offender treatment provider put the word "victim" in quotations marks and went on to say, "I am aware that her 'victim' was truly the pursuer in this case."
Another letter writer said Torbick "is not a threat to others or to society," and a lawyer who volunteered with her at a summer camp said, "I would not hesitate for a moment to welcome her back to camp."
Some of the letters came from those who work directly with children, including camp volunteers and employees of the Bedford School District, where Torbick once worked as a counselor. Parents in that district are calling on school leaders who supported Torbick to resign.
"We will continue to stand with this brave victim that came forward and work to make sure that the professionals that defended this offender in this case have access to the training and education that's clearly needed," Lightfoot said.
That strong support has angered advocates for sexual assault victims who fear it will prevent some young victims from coming forward.
“We’re concerned that the outpouring of support on behalf of an admitted sex offender could impact future reporting. Many of the professionals who came forward to defend Torbick’s actions are working in fields where they themselves have access to children and are responsible for the care and safety of kids.
“Every professional that came forward and defended the actions of Torbick should be held to the same standard and it is critical that each of them receive evidenced-based training and education to ensure they are not creating an environment where children are less likely to report sexual abuse,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Although prosecutors had recommended a sentence of five to 10 years for Torbick, the judge showed leniency in imposing only a two-and-a-half to five-year sentence. This drew the ire of New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Public Affairs Director Amanda Grady Sexton.
“It shows a significant lack of understanding among these educators of the severity of the crime this victim suffered when they should be concerned about protecting the safety of their students,” Sexton said.
Newfound Superintendent 'Won't Defend' Employee Who Sought Leniency For Guidance Counselor Who Sexually Assaulted Teen
BRISTOL — The head of the Newfound Area School District says she had no idea a high school guidance counselor planned to speak in support of former Exeter High School guidance counselor Kristie Torbick when she pleaded guilty and was sentenced last week for sexually assaulting a student.
Superintendent Stacy Buckley said Tuesday that neither she nor anyone else from the administration supported Newfound Regional High School guidance counselor Shelly Philbrick when she addressed the court.
She said she is now investigating the incident as a personnel matter.
“I am not going to defend her in any way,” Buckley said of Philbrick.
Amanda Grady Sexton, public affairs director for the New Hampshire Coalition
Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the educators who spoke in support
of Torbick showed “a significant lack of understanding ... of the severity of the
crime this victim suffered when they should be concerned about protecting the
safety of their students.”
Grady Sexton added, “Seeing other guidance counselors defend the perpetrator
has a chilling effect on other students willing to report cases of abuse.”
New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence public affairs director Amanda Grady Sexton said the schools where Torbick's defenders are employed should be concerned about their statements.
"It shows a significant lack of understanding among these educators of the severity of the crime this victim suffered when they should be concerned about protecting the safety of their students," Grady Sexton said. "We absolutely agree with the county attorney's office asking for a fitting sentence in this case. When courts and schools don't hold perpetrators accountable, it's a chance for sexual predators to use a position like guidance counselor to gain access to children."
Grady sexton said prison sentences in general fro sexual crimes in New Hampshire are too lenient.
"The lifelong effects on both girls and boys who are victims of sexual assault makes it extremely difficult for normal adolescent development," she said. "A sentence like this sends the message to kids in other schools the crime of sexual assault was not that significant in the eyes of the court and seeing other guidance counselors defend the perpetrator has a chilling effect on other students willing to report cases of abuse."
In a statement released Tuesday, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence argued that the show of support for Kristie Torbick, especially from people who work with children, sends the wrong message.
At one point during the sentencing, those who supported Torbick stood up one by one and offered their names as the victim sat quietly in the front row.
“It’s alarming these guidance counselors have attempted to justify the actions of one of their peers and have asked the court for leniency in this case. A guidance counselor’s role is to foster the development of a child, not to defend an admitted child molester. Their irresponsible statements send the message to students that this behavior is somehow acceptable, and we hope that their actions have not deterred other victims from coming forward,” the coalition said.