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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, July 31, 2008

Berne man charged with rape, incest

By Tyler Schuling

EAST BERNE — An East Berne man was arrested Sunday because, police say, he raped a mentally-disabled relative. 

“Victims need to understand that there was nothing that they did to deserve that,” said Joseph Farrell, the director of training of the state’s Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which supports the initiatives of the 78 rape-crisis programs across New York State. 

“I simplify it sometimes when I do some training,” said Farrell.  “The 9-year-old didn’t go out on his bicycle that morning and say, ‘Gee, I hope somebody steals my bike.’”

He said rape is not the victim’s fault. 

“But, unfortunately, for too long, society, for whatever reason, perpetuated the practice of victim blaming,” Farrell said.  “And that, in itself, creates a barrier to victims coming forward.  But, I think, first and foremost, the victims need to understand that it was nothing that they did.” 

On Monday, in a release, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department said Stephen F. Huether, 42, of 321 Elm Dr., East Berne, has been charged with first-degree rape, first-degree criminal sexual act, and first-degree unlawful imprisonment, all felonies, and for third-degree incest. 

Huether, who is employed by Albany County’s department of public works, was arrested at the sheriff’s department’s patrol station in Voorheesville. 

“He did not try to flee and he was not physically uncooperative,” said Senior Investigator Ron Bates.

The sheriff’s release said the victim is mentally disabled.

“We just recently did a training for law enforcement — sexual assaults on persons with disabilities,” said Farrell.  “Persons with disabilities are two times more likely to be victimized.”

Farrell said, “Approximately 83 percent of women living with a disability will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”  Only about 3 percent of cases involving people with disabilities are ever reported, he said.

On Saturday, the sheriff’s department was notified by staff at the Albany Medical Center Hospital, where Huether’s relative was treated and reported the assault.  Police say she was treated and released a short time later.  She does not live with Huether, police say. 

Investigators with the sheriff’s department searched Huether’s home, where, police say, several items were collected as potential evidence.

The department says the investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be filed against Huether for photographing “additional sexual acts involving the same victim.”  Bates said investigators have no reason to believe the photographs were shared with others.

The Albany County District Attorney’s Office will be prosecuting the case and a grand jury indictment is pending and there may be additional charges, he said.   

Investigators believe the sexual abuse had been occurring for at least the past 18 months.  Bates said one of the reasons investigators believe this is “the time span on the photos.” 

Huether was arraigned by Berne Town Justice Richard Guilz and remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail.  He could not be reached for comment. 


“Let me just give you a very baffling statistic,” said Farrell.  “Approximately 85 percent of victims of sexual violence know their attacker.  And when you start talking about demographics, the highest targeted age group is 16 to 24.  And there’s various studies out there, depending on which one you look at, but the average is one in four women in that age group will be sexually assaulted.”

Unfortunately, he said, only about 20 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported.  “When I say ‘reported,’ that’s to law enforcement,” said Farrell, “because that’s what reportable statistics are based on.

“Approximately 89 percent of the abusers are male and are known to their victims.” Males with disabilities, he said, are twice as likely to be sexually abused as males without disabilities.

Barriers victims face

Farrell outlined reasons, circumstances, and conditions that prevent victims of sexual violence from coming forward.   

“There’s the barriers and such that they might not be believed and this goes across all lines of victims regardless of whether or not there’s a disability involved,” he said.  “There’s the self-blame on the victim’s part that prevents them from coming forward.  They think, for whatever reason, that they caused the assault to take place,” he said.  “They’re afraid of family members finding out.  Talking about the situation where the perpetrator is a family member, they’re concerned with what’s going to happen to the family unit itself if they come forward,” said Farrell.  “What happens to the family?  Does this family break up?  Things along those lines.  There’s all that concern.” 

Farrell said victims may also be concerned about what will happen to the perpetrator’s reputation. 

“If it’s a friend, a co-worker, whatever the case may be,” he said, “they’re worried about what will happen to them subsequent to them coming forward.” 

Farrell said, “There’s a number of other different barriers that prevent people from coming forward: bad experience with law enforcement in the past, an environment that’s not conducive to coming forward — there’s been unsuccessful prosecutions in a particular jurisdiction so subsequent victims are less willing to come forward.  A lot more reluctancy based on those facts.”

Farrell outlined more difficulties victims of sexual violence face when coming forward and the role their environment plays. 

“What we make a priority of in most of our training is a collaborative community approach — involving multiple disciplines such as law enforcement, prosecution, rape crisis programs, sexual assault examiners that are in some hospitals [and] some health care facilities — not in all, unfortunately — and they work together to provide a collaborative approach,” Farrell said.  “It creates an environment that’s conducive to a victim coming forward.  If the community services that they need to access are all working together and on the same page, that environment says, ‘OK, I’m going to get a good service here.  I’m going to be believed.  I’m going to be able to access what I should be able to access and not have to worry about what else may take place,” he said.  “There are a good deal of communities in the state that are like that.  And that’s why you will see, unfortunately, once the environment’s been established that is conducive to victims coming forward, there is an increase in numbers.  That’s not necessarily a correlation to an increase in occurrence but an increase in reporting what’s taken place.” 

Recovery and support

Farrell outlined the healing process and factors that affect how soon a victim is able to move forward with his or her life. 

“There isn’t necessarily a time frame or a prescription for recovery,” he said.  “Sexual assault victims refer to themselves as survivors.  They survived one of the most heinous acts that could ever take place against a human being,” Farrell said.  “And that’s how they refer to themselves.  And each individual goes through varying stages of victimization at varying intervals of time and everybody’s different. 

“They go through the anger, the denial, the blame, and, finally, at some point in time, some realization in a recovery process — not necessarily made whole again but able to cope and move forward,” Farrell said.  “And that varies with each individual.  The severity of the attack — the nature of it — and the individual — how they cope and what coping mechanism they are able to employ — and what services they are able to avail themselves to,” he said.  “A lot of rape crisis programs offer individual counseling, group counseling, extended services to persons with disabilities.  Not every rape crisis program offers all of those services but some do and they all offer them at varying degrees.”


A statewide hotline is available to victims of sexual violence and of domestic violence.  For English speaking residents, call 1-800-942-6906; for Spanish speaking residents, call 1-800-942-6908.  For TTY, call 1-800-818-0656; and for TTY in Spanish, call 1-800-780-7660.

A listing of rape crisis programs by county can be found at the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s website — www.nyscasa.org.

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