By Sandy . . . One of the most damaging attitudes toward those convicted of sexual crimes is that they can never again do anything noble or worthy, that they are forever criminals. This is the underlying justification for registries and restrictions that block rather than encourage rehabilitative initiatives.
At least equally damaging, however, is the insistence that not only do their crimes make impossible any future worth but also wipe out any good, worth, or value from before the commission of the crime.
I have written on this subject before in the case of a war hero and Purple Heart recipient being treated as though his former heroism was totally negated by a subsequent act of sexual misconduct.
A month ago Kristie Torbick, a guidance counselor at Exeter High School in New Hampshire, received a sexual conviction for a situation involving one of the students she counseled. When some of her peers and colleagues wrote letters on her behalf and spoke favorable of her past at her sentencing hearing, they received harsh criticism, and I wrote about it then.
And now some of those who offered letters or words attesting to Kristie Torbick’s dedication and skill at her job find themselves without one.
The fall-out is difficult to assess and highly unlikely to be over.
The casualties thus far are a school guidance counselor and a school superintendent, both who have “resigned,” and a Plymouth State University professor who has lost her job. Another two professors must attend “additional training on sexual assault” before being allowed to resume their classes. Community members are calling for additional firings of high school teachers who offered support to Ms. Torbick.
New Hampshire’s ACLU has become involved the situation.
People do not commit crimes in isolation to the rest of their lives. Before they cross the line, some lives clearly indicate the path upon which they are headed. Some lives are unremarkable and ordinary. And some have lives of service, dedication, and self-sacrifice.
Just as with the myths that insist those who have sexual convictions can never again be trusted, this determination to remove every vestige of good from the history of persons who have erred sexually is wrong. It reduces the individual to his or her offense and nothing more. It refuses the truth that each and every individual is a complex mechanism comprised of good and bad, noble acts and misdeeds, the glorious and the tarnished.
And in so doing, it denies humanity to our brothers, our sisters, and to ourselves.
Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.