A Double-Edged Sword: RTT Counseling Center and a Community in Need.

I have watched the dialogue for the last several weeks about the counseling center on Beacon Street and am compelled to speak out.  There, but for the grace of God, goes how many of us in need of counseling for one reason or another?  We are always so quick to cast the first stone. But is that the wise and sensible thing to do? 

Let’s review the facts:  RTT has operated since 2005 without incident except for the recent charges against one of its alleged clients.  A NH State prosecutor indicated a link between a current offender and the RTT counseling center, but correlation has never equaled causation.  A town councilor, in good faith, made an inquiry on behalf of her constituents because of the public outcry that ensued.  The landlord, and by default RTT associates, received an eviction notice.  Lady Justice is blind for a reason, but apparently there is no room for her objectivity in city politics!  Sadly it is the people of Concord that will pay the price for these rash decisions.  

Research has shown that counseling makes a difference – ask those around you that rely on regular counseling sessions to manage the everyday stresses of their lives!  Research has shown that for the vast majority of offenders, sex offenders or otherwise, therapy has reduced recidivism rates and improved outcomes for countless individuals and their families.  Indeed the Coalition for Domestic and Sexual Violence here in NH has spoken out against similar restrictions that would have driven offenders underground; namely residency restrictions.  

Back in 2008, the town of Derry sought to enact residency restrictions against registered sex offenders as a reaction to a convicted child molester and murderer moving to their town and living near a school, ostensibly in a “residential area”.   Ironically, Amanda Grady Sexton, the councilwoman for Ward 4, was recently quoted as saying she doesn’t think the center belongs in a residential area.  However, the Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence had her speak at the Derry, NH town meeting to oppose residency restrictions, indicating specifically that “education and programs are more important”.  So which is it?  Mrs. Grady Sexton has failed to take a stand to educate her ward about the dangers of recidivism without treatment, and she has failed to acknowledge and support the growing body of research that indicates isolation and exclusion from re-integration services are counterproductive to public safety initiatives.  

To that end, there are more than 150 registered sex offenders living within the same zip code as the RTT counseling center on Beacon St.  With those high numbers, and the public hysteria, wouldn’t we expect to see the police called to these neighborhoods more often if proximity to “residential areas” increased predatory or violent behavior?   And more to the point, we don’t appoint our elected officials to act on our (or their) emotions in response to a crisis.  We certainly don’t anticipate the City of Concord to suspend all pastoral counseling services that local churches provide if those churches are located in residential neighborhoods simply because felons, sex offenders, adulterers, drug users, and spousal abusers seek help from them, do we?  And how many walk among us that committed crimes decades ago and were never caught?   Treatment benefits everyone.  RTT should be allowed to continue their services without undue prejudice against them because some of their clientele come from a “less than desirable” population.

Rebecca Levesque

Submitted Concord Monitor 8/14/13