Plymouth State University is investigating several faculty members' public support for a convicted sexual offender. Kristie Torbick, a former guidance counselor at Exeter High School in New Hampshire and an alumna of Plymouth State's graduate program, was convicted of, and pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year old student.
Torbick has stated that she was "overwhelmed with her new job at Exeter and only wanted to help the student in question." She also admitted to sending partially or fully nude photos of herself to the student and exchanging over 23,000 text messages. The student has since said they were "taken advantage of and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the abuse." Torbick was sexually involved with the student from December 2016 to January 2017 at numerous locations, including a public parking lot and her home.
While the university "condemns in the strongest terms the actions of Ms. Torbick and supports the victim in this case," 23 of Torbick's colleagues and acquaintances wrote letters to the court on her behalf, prior to her sentencing. The public letters, which "all speak to Torbick's dedication to counseling and children, and many of which ask for leniency," have become controversial and even prompted the recent resignation of Torbick's previous school district's superintendent.
Some of the views outlined in the letters are "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 wrote that Torbick "is not a threat to others or to society." Others vowed 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." The letters and support, according to the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, "send a message to other children that they won't be believed and supported when they come forward," and furthermore, provides a "chance for sexual predators to use a position like a guidance counselor to gain access to children." In addition to the letters of support, dozens of Torbick's supporters reportedly showed up to her hearing and a handful spoke in her defense, possibly contributing to her reduced sentence. The teenage victim, who was also present, reportedly left the courtroom in tears as Torbick's supporters spoke in her defense.
Torbick was given a minimum two-and-a-half-year sentence and must give up her education credentials and register as a sex offender. Some prosecutors are publicly criticizing the lenient sentence, saying that while they "respect the decision of the court, it disagrees with the sentencing decision given Torbick's actions and the position that she held." Prosecutors had asked for a minimum sentence of five years. In your opinion, do you think that the time fits the crime? Why or why not?
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