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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.
Last year, eight teams turned out to play and raised $5,600 for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and for Drug Free NH
“Parole is a privilege, not a right, and this decision prioritizes an offender’s privilege over the rights of their victim,” Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said in a statement. “This drastic change in procedure is a significant deviation from current practice and a significant step backwards for the rights of victims. This decision should not have been made without the input from the victim advocacy community.”
The possibility that future hearings could be closed to the public has drawn sharp criticism from the victim advocacy community. Advocates said they fear further limitations on crime victims who may want to keep abreast of an offender’s release plans or respond to issues as they arise during a hearing.
“Meaningful input from crime victims should help guide the parole board’s decisions about the status of a convicted offender,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “The information victims provide can be critical when determining an offender’s potential risk to the victim and to the public.”
Grady Sexton said the fact that such a policy is even under consideration shows why amending the New Hampshire Constitution to include basic rights for crime victims is so important. A proposal to do just that was shot down by the House in late April after overwhelmingly passing the Senate weeks earlier.
“Victims deserve the same guarantee offenders get: that their rights will be recognized and upheld,” she said. “Without the protections of the Constitution, these types of policy changes will continue to occur, and protections for victims will continue to be rolled back.”
Even though the alleged crimes ended 18 years ago, advocates are urging sexual assault survivors to call a crisis center and go to the police no matter how much time has passed.
“We always stand by the survivors,” said Jessica Eskeland, of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “They're never alone in what they're dealing with.”
NHCADSV isn’t involved with this case, but they urge survivors to come forward no matter how much time has passed.
“There are confidential, free crisis center services across the state, and it's so important to reach out, not only for public safety, but to know what your options are as survivor,” Eskeland said.
The N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence submitted testimony in support of protecting victim identities.
“We’re deeply disappointed with the committee’s rejection of a proposal to provide basic privacy rights to victims of crime,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the NHCADSV, in a statement after the advisory committee vote.
“Unfortunately, all too often victims are faced with choosing between seeking justice and maintaining basic privacy rights in the wake of a crime,” she said. “Sadly, the committee did not see the value in adopting a modest measure that would have gone a long way in addressing the concerns of crime victims.
In supporting the adoption of the rule change, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said the age of “instant online sharing” demands a new layer of victim privacy.
“Keeping a victim’s name out of the media and off the Internet in no way impedes the public’s right to know that our court system is functioning fairly,” Director of Public Affairs Amanda Grady Sexton and Public Policy Specialist Jessica Eskeland said in a joint statement to the Monitor. “The media and the public do not have an absolute right to irrelevant information about victims of crime.”
Grady Sexton said by phone Friday that one of the main reasons sexual assault victims cite for not reporting is fear of a significant loss of privacy – something they’ve seen play out firsthand in other cases.
“No victim should have to choose between making a report and getting justice and their privacy,” she said.
Domestic violence-related homicides make up 59 percent of the state’s homicides over the last seven years, according to a biennial report from the New Hampshire Domestic Fatality Review Committee. In 2014 and 2015, domestic violence-related homicides represented 62 percent of all homicides in the state.
Amanda Grady Sexton, public affairs director at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said supervised visitation centers provide “critical safety protections for families in crisis.” Without them, she said, children face a greater risk of victimization by a non-custodial parent.
“When supervised visitation options do not exist within a community, the court should consider restricting visitation until the parent has proven that they are no longer a danger to their child,” Grady Sexton said.