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.
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.