Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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April 18th, 2013

Fighting Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a difficult crime to discuss or understand. Lives are literally destroyed when such a demoralizing offense occurs.

Statistics show that sexual assault and abuse continues to be a grave problem in Sullivan County. Our police and prosecutors have taken these crimes very seriously. We are known as a county that also houses many registered sex offenders.

In Sullivan County one organization has always been there to assist and comfort those victims who have undergone such a traumatic and dreadful experience, RISE (Rape Intervention Services and Education). This highly respected program of intervention and counseling unfortunately is underfunded and needs money to survive.

RISE almost closed its doors several years ago. Thanks to the grassroots efforts of Thompson Councilman Richard Sush, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and CRMC the program was saved.

April is a month dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence and increasing the public’s understanding about sexual violence in our society. It also provides opportunities for our community to be directly involved in supporting victims and survivors, their families, and organizations that provide crisis intervention throughout the year.

I cannot begin to tell you how vital it is for us to support programs like RISE. As many of you are aware, the past several years have been one of the most difficult and tragic periods in my life.

My 62-year-old severely and profoundly functionally and developmentally disabled sister Paula Liblick was raped while living in a state run group home. The injuries were noticed several days later when a caretaker at her day program was changing her diaper.

I will never forget the tragic day when I raced to the hospital with police investigators standing outside of the rape unit. I found Paula on a stretcher with three women next to her. I turned white like a ghost as my heart sunk to my stomach.

I was devastated, shocked, and raged as I looked at my sweet innocent sister and the horrific black and blue marks.

I held Paula and lifted her as they conducted the extensive examination. With tears in all of our eyes, the worst of our fears materialized. The exam proved trauma in several places in her vagina. I thanked God my parents were not alive to witness this. Paula was sexually assaulted.

Paula died in April of 2011 after becoming severely ill from strongyloides, a sexually transmitted parasite native to the Caribbean, which was the result of the rape. Five employees from the Hudson Valley group home were fired and the facility has since closed down. No one was ever arrested for the assault because there were no video cameras, or ways to track visitors.

When it comes to protecting our most vulnerable, New York looks the other way and that’s reprehensible. I have since been on a mission to make certain our most vulnerable are protected.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, who is Chair of the Assembly’s Mental Health Committee, along with State Senator David Carlucci have introduced legislation entitled “Paula’s Law,” (Assembly Bill 1715/State Senate Bill 2000) requiring the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPDD) to place video cameras at the entrances and exits of all its facilities as a way to prevent abuse and protect both patients and staff.

“Paula’s Law” has bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate but has yet to move out of committees for a vote. State buildings, hospitals, convenient stores and everywhere we look there are cameras for protection, so why not group homes? Cameras are cheap and will save money in the long run. It is not even a privacy issue.

In response to Paula’s tragedy, and at the urging of legislator Cora Edwards who is Public Safety Chair, members of the Sullivan County legislature voted unanimously to support “Paula’s Law” and are sending a letters to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly and Senate members urging its passage.

We must all support the efforts of such organizations as RISE right here in Sullivan County.

On Saturday April 20, 2013, RISE will be holding their 3rd Annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to benefit Sullivan County’s Rape Intervention Services and Education, at the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello. Registration is at 9 AM and the walk kicks off at 10 AM. A chicken BBQ Picnic Fundraiser hosted by the leadership Sullivan Class will immediately follow at DeHoyos Park from 11:30 AM to 3 PM, with a free shuttle from the government center to DeHoyos Park.

We cannot afford to lose RISE. Please call 845-794-3300, ext 2442, and donate all you can.


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