ALEXANDRIA — Police Chief Donald Sullivan, an outspoken critic of Newfound Regional High School Guidance Counselor Shelly Philbrick’s decision to support leniency for a convicted child rapist, has teamed up with Voices Against Violence to plan a community forum at the Alexandria Town Hall on Thursday, Aug. 9.
“The public and the parents are chomping at the bit to be able to speak their minds a little bit and have some outlet to express their concerns,” Sullivan said.
Philbrick was among several former colleagues of Kristie Torbick who supported leniency after Torbick pleaded guilty to four counts of felonious sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy.
Philbrick testified that “to incarcerate Mrs. Torbick as part of any plea bargain would be a sad injustice to her own three children, one of which is only 3 years of age.”
“Unfortunately, she was just one of many who spoke up in support of the convicted child rapist, in front of the victim, sending a very dangerous message out to victims of sexual assault, especially young victims, that the ‘system’ is protecting perpetrators and not victims,” said Sullivan.
He was especially bothered by the statement by Nancy Strapko, an associate professor emeritus at Plymouth State University, who insisted that Torbick was not a predator.
“Kristie takes full responsibility for her actions with her ‘victim,’” Strapko said. “I put this in [quotes] because I am aware that her ‘victim’ was truly the pursuer in this case.”
“That’s by far the worst of them all,” Sullivan said, “to blame a 14-year-old victim for being the pursuer, and that’s a whole other battle in sight. I’ll be willing to assist in that one, but I have to deal with the one at home first.”
He said he has spoken with School Administrative Unit 4 Superintendent Stacy Buckley about his concerns, and he believes Philbrick’s views are not shared by others in the Newfound Area School District.
“It appears that Shelly is standing by herself as far as her comments,” Sullivan said. “I am comfortable and confident that the school as a whole has the children’s safety in the forefront.”
He said the Alexandria forum is aimed at reassuring people that there are “true professionals out there who will treat victims with respect and support them.”
He said Voices Against Violence, a crisis services agency in Plymouth, was “more than happy” to join with the Alexandria Police Department in holding the forum and let residents know what resources are available to parents and victims of sexual assault, as well as “to see how we would respond to reported sexual assault or violence that happens in the area.”
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence also is supporting the forum, which will begin at 6 p.m. on Aug. 9.
Sullivan also urged those with concerns about their children’s safety at school to write to the superintendent, “so they have that to use in their decision-making on that personnel matter.”
The Newfound Area School Board is scheduled to meet next on Monday, Aug. 13. Chair Jeff Levesque noted that Buckley “has publicly stated that she does not support Shelly’s actions.” He said there will be no public discussion of personnel matters at the meeting, but the issue will be discussed behind closed doors. The public portion of the board meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.