The Alaska Office of Children's Services released more foster-care files of Marilyn and Peter Tony. This summer Peter Tony, 69, was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor involving children left in his care -- one through an unlicensed day care he operated, the other a foster child he and his wife cared for in 1998.
Tony's stepdaughter, Kimberley Hahn Bruesch, has spoken openly about the abuse she and her sisters faced under his care stretching back to the 1970s, though those instances fall outside Alaska statute of limitations laws.
The Office of Children's Services, the arm of the state Department of Health and Social Services that oversees foster care in Alaska, has come under scrutiny for its handling of the case.
The original foster care files, released in July under a Freedom of Information Act request from Alaska Dispatch, referenced at least five allegations of abuse against Tony during his time as a foster parent, though only one was found to be substantiated. The release of 76 additional pages – which consists mostly of requests for the Tonys to take in more foster children than their license allowed -- makes two mentions of possible abuse. One memo from 1995 and another from 1992 referenced an allegation of abuse “approximately 10-12 years ago.” Both of those cases were noted in the original file release.
Marilyn and Peter Tony were licensed foster care providers in Bethel from 1984 to 1998. The license was abruptly terminated following a “substantiated” allegation of abuse in 1998, though no charges were filed until this year.
Peter Tony’s stepdaughter speaks out about abuse
by Angela Denning-Barnes on July 8, 2013
Kimberley Bruesch now lives in Ketchikan.
Peter Tony, age 69, is in jail in Bethel awaiting court proceedings for multiple charges of child sexual abuse. Meanwhile, his case keeps growing. It’s evolving from two sides: the past and the present; a 48-year-old alleged victim and a four-year-old alleged victim. Kimberley Bruesch is Peter Tony’s step daughter who says he abused her when she was 8. She says her abuse lasted for about a year but the aftermath went on for decades.
She says it wasn’t debilitating, at least at the time. Tony would climb into her bed and fondle her.
“I kind of imagined maybe this is what Daddy’s do with their little girls,” Bruesch says. “It wasn’t violent, there weren’t threats involved or anything. And it made me uncomfortable and I tried to squirm away and pretend I was asleep and get between the mattress and the wall but it was not particular traumatic at the time.”
The stress manifested itself in other ways. She started having nervous behaviors. She clawed and picked at her skin until it bled.
For Bruesch, the statute of limitations has run out to press charges but she says she doesn’t want anyone else to suffer the same way.
“I started pursuing this case in earnest,” Bruesch says. “Trying to figure out how I could get someone in authority to care enough to look over the records and connect the dots.”
Through her own investigation, she’s discovering that there could be other victims. A former foster child accused Tony of abuse leading to the revocation of his foster care license in 1998. Later, Bruesch’s mother, Marilyn Tony, ran a daycare out of her home. Bruesch has reached out to those parents and connected to the 4-year-old’s family who is now pressing charges.
For Bruesch though, help didn’t come for years. She never told anyone about the abuse until she was 15. Her mom, Marilyn Tony, confronted her step dad but he denied it. Her mother suggested the three talk about it together which Breusch refused to do. The same year, she moved out of the house to live with her boyfriend. She was married by 17.
At that same time, Bruesch’s younger sister came forward, accusing Tony of abuse. Their mom took both teenagers to the Division of Family and Youth Services where they were interviewed by a social worker, Mary Atchak, (formerly Mary Abruska). Nothing happened, there was no follow up, and Bruesch just pushed it all aside again.
“It also left me feeling that the abuse I reported must not be very serious,” Bruesch says. “You know, I wasn’t actually raped.”
Reports have recently surfaced in other media that the social worker had been romantically involved with Peter Tony but they have not been confirmed.
Bruesch was also silenced for years by the unexpected response from her husband.
“He was very angry with me for reporting the abuse,” Bruesch says, “so much so that he punched a hole in the living room wall.”
That relationship lasted for 18 years during which time Bruesch was estranged from her family.
Kimberley and her two sisters, Robin and Teresa. Photo courtesy of Kimberley Bruesch
Meanwhile, the Tony sisters were dealing with the aftermath of their abuse. Both Robin and Teresa committed suicide as adults.
The extent of her sisters’ abuse only became clear to Bruesch this past year when she found Teresa’s suicide note. It told of the abuse and asked for justice. With the support from her brother Doug Tony, Bruesch has been going after that.
“I’m wanting to come public with my story because I’m really hoping that more victims will be able to come forward,” Bruesch says. “More victims of Peter Tony, in particular, in this case and just more victims of this crime in general.”
Bruesch says she feels totally healed. She’s come to terms with Tony’s abuse and her sisters’ suicides.
“I have forgiven him, I don’t hate him,” Bruesch says. “I think it would have been wonderful if he could have been exposed years earlier and gotten help for his problem.”
She doesn’t know how many victims there could be. Bethel police say they could go back to the 1970s. What Bruesch says she does know is that the time has come for the heavy burden of shame to be lifted off their shoulders and carried by their abuser.