Incest Leads To Suicide of Two Sisters, Both Victims of Their Step-Father

“When Alaska Dispatch published an account of alleged sexual abuse that led to two sisters killing themselves, reaction from readers was swift. On Facebook alone, a preview of the story — along with a photo of the sisters when they were children — reached more than 80,000 people as of Friday afternoon. And the comments ran the gamut, from expressing anger at the alleged perpetrator — 69-year-old Bethel resident Peter Tony — to admiration for his stepdaughter, who shared her account with a reporter.

Kimberley Hahn Bruesch, right, with her sisters Robin, left, and Teresa, center.

Kimberley Hahn Bruesch, right, with her sisters Robin, left, and Teresa, center.

Kimberley Hahn Bruesch, 48, of Ketchikan, wanted her story told publicly, in part, to “inspire at least one other person to come forward.” She accuses Tony of sexually assaulting her and two sisters when they were kids in the 1970s.

Her sisters, scarred from the abuse, committed suicide in the 1990s. Bruesch began to speaking to Alaska Dispatch two days after Bethel Police said Tony had confessed and been charged with sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl.

(Bruesch’s older sister, Robin, took her own life in 1990. Teresa followed in 1998. Teresa died on April 14, 1998. In her suicide note, she wrote: “I just told (my daughter) about what my Dad did to me. She’ll know now why I did what I did.”

“Even as an adult my father has found a way to destroy me,” she said later in the note.

When she died, Teresa left behind three young children; Robin left two.

After the story was published Thursday evening, social media lit up and many readers reacted with an outpouring of thanks, sympathy and support for Bruesch.

The parents

The parents

Bruesch herself has been responding online to those who have left comments, and that’s emboldened other survivors of abuse to tell their own stories.

In a typical exchange between Bruesch and readers — this one appearing on Tundra Telegraph’s Facebook page — Linda Geren Jacquot wrote:

So sad. I hope that justice is reached and the abuser is locked away never to hurt another child again. Where were the authorities in 1982 when Bruesch first reported her stepfather? Why wasn’t anything done then?

To which Bruesch responded:

That is what I want to know. At the time I was in an abusive marriage and my husband was so angry with me for reporting the abuse that he punched a hole in the wall. This effectively silenced me about the matter for years, and I was happy at the time that nothing came of it. I was also left with the feeling that the abuse we suffered was of a trivial nature, not worthy of a police investigation since no penetration had occurred. In retrospect, I see clearly that a police report should have been filed.

A family photo posted to Alaska Dispatch’s Facebook page shocked Bristan N. Bekki Keller, who wrote:

So here I am scrolling through my newsfeed, when I see this picture…a very familiar pic that I have still with me…my mother and her 2 sisters. This is just blowing my mind. My mother had a hard time dealing with the aftermath of the abuse she endured, and sadly in the end, she took her own life. The last thing she told me, was that she was molested from age 7 to 14…I still can barely wrap my brain around this.

Massa Morsell shared her own experiences on Facebook:

Thank you for posting this. Child sexual abuse is rampant in the native community. We victims are supposed to be quiet. The failure in protecting the children is not just the system but a failure of adults that don’t believe children or do not value them as human beings. Getting these stories out is a start toward getting the truth out of how devastating and cruel child sex abuse is until it is finally viewed in our bush communities as WRONG and criminal. Keeping quiet both by the victim and the few people that become aware of the abuses is how child sex abuse continues. It is ugly and painful to expose it but worth it in the long run. Much respect and appreciation to you, Kimberly! God bless you abundantly and give you strength to continue to stand your ground.

Alyson Rowe wrote about her abuse, too, on Facebook:

My grandfather molested me also. What happened when we told the police, nothing! This state has a long disgusting history of allowing this to happen to children. I’m happy someone is finally being listened to.

Gina Michelle Peru-Friccero shared this story:

One of my foster kids was abused by her stepfather. She told us, the troopers and an advocate. The troopers believed him instead of her, until her mother caught him with her younger sister. Then he went to jail. Why don’t people listen to kids? They don’t make this up…its too humiliating. And to not listen or call them a liar is to do it to them all over again!

And Kellie Prather Robinson also experienced years of pain:

As someone who comes from a family with generations of abuse, and generations of hurt, I thank you for sharing your story. Kimberley is a survivor, and I am proud to say that finally, so am I.

Karen Eckman thanked Bruesch for her “bravery,” adding that:

I went through a similar situation, and all of my “allegations” were never brought to the public light. The system is broken, and they continue to do nothing to protect the children. It is tragic that it takes so many little voices before something is done.

Mary Nell Thomas expressed frustration over how the system allegedly broke down, allowing Tony to continue to be around children as a foster care parent:

Such tragedy in so many lives that could have been prevented. It is time that people in authority started listening to children, believing them and protecting them. Too many times children are victims. I so admire your strength and courage, Kimberly! Praying for you all!!

Other readers expressed anger at Tony and his late wife, Marilyn Tony, who Bruesch said always had struggled to believe she’d been abused.

“There’s a special place in hell reserved just for him,” Nicole SueAnn Beaver wrote on Facebook. “I got violently sick when I first heard and again when I read.”

“I am so enraged that nobody seems to hold her mother accountable!!” Debra Amos said. “She told her mom that her stepfather was molesting her, and then received NO help!! If any of the children that I love come to me with that allegation, there will be no need whatsoever for the authorities to assist. The end.”

Bruesch responded to Amos:

When I was 15, I told my mother that I had been molested by him when I was 8. It was no longer going on. Both the manner in which I told my mother and my motive for doing so made it difficult for her to believe me at the time. My unwillingness to speak further about it or to face Peter with my allegations served to confound her efforts to respond appropriately. Two years later when my younger sister made similar allegations, it was my mother who took us to child protective services to report it. Please don’t blame my poor mother. She didn’t do this, Peter did. He lied to her about it and was able to deceive many for a long time. When she was asked to become a foster parent, my mother was concerned about the allegations against her husband and was told by OCS, ‘Don’t worry about that, that never happened.’ I hold the state accountable for allowing this man to continue abusing children for so long.”…

The negative feedback from people about her mother is justified in some ways. It is also very understandable coming from survivors who had mothers that knew their child was being abused and did nothing to stop it.

I don’t think anyone is blaming her mother, but when a child tells their mother such disturbing news, even if the abuse has stopped, a mother needs to do something. Take action. Look into the matter. She ought to seek counseling or make phone calls to hotlines.

Mothers cannot just conveniently assume it isn’t true and go on with their life.

But I am happy to read that her mother took action two years later.

The most heart-breaking thing for me to read is that the two women took their own lives…especially that they left children behind when they did.

I wonder how many suicides are attributed to child sexual abuse every year?


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42 Responses to Incest Leads To Suicide of Two Sisters, Both Victims of Their Step-Father

  1. For any who would like to read more about my story, I have started a Facebook group.

  2. Alethea says:

    A message from Kimberley:

    “I am very willing to tell my story and to be identified by name. I want this widely publicized for at least five reasons.

    1. I hope that more victims of Peter Tony will come forward and more charges will be added to the case. This will lighten the burden of proof on the 4-year-old girl and her family.

    2. By speaking out, I hope to reduce the stigma association with being a victim of child sexual abuse. Most victims feel so much shame for what happened to them when the shame belongs to the perpetrator of such crimes.

    3. I hope to raise awareness about the problem of child sexual abuse in general in the hopes that more people will educate their children about the danger and also be more selective about who they trust with their children.

    4. I hope to inspire others, like myself, who were abused long ago to come forward and do something about it. I want to say to them, “If your abuser is still alive and has never been prosecuted, chances are that he is still molesting others. Maybe you can join with other victims to put a stop to it.” Once I decided to look for other (more recent) victims, I only had to make one phone call and she was able to put me in touch with one.

    5. I believe it was my sister’s dying wish to expose this man since she mentioned it in her suicide note. I just found that note last year (she died in 1998) and it prompted me to pursue this in her behalf.”

    • little nel says:

      Does anyone know if a native Eskimo has ever been prosecuted for incest in Alaska?

      If it’s a cultural behavior that is common to Eskimo’s, like I was taught, then it would be hard to prosecute them because the incestuous behavior would be excused as part of a cultural belief system that was passed down to them from generation to generation.

      There are many Native American tribes who had ancestors with histories of tribal customs of incest.

      Peter Tony must be an expert at molesting children and getting away with it or he has some “protections” in places that he knows will excuse him or fail to prosecute him.

      • little nel says:

        My father knew that he could use “protections” under the law to allow him to sexually abuse pubescent girls. He knew what to say to the victims’ mothers to get them to back down from trying to prosecute him.

        He never abused girls from families where a father was present. He only went for his own daughter, his step-daughter, and her female childhood friends who had no fathers to protect them. He knew how to use the law to allow him to abuse without fear of prosecution.

        As far as I know, he never stopped molesting children because as he said, he was 100% innocent until he was proven guilty in a court of law. It was his word against a child victim and he knew how to intimidate the child into recanting or getting the mother to go away quietly.

        • Alethea says:

          Little Nel, this is why, with so many single mothers in this society, children are at a big risk.

          • Gail says:

            He never abused girls from families where a father was present. He only went for his own daughter, his step-daughter, and her female childhood friends who had no fathers to protect them.
            Little Nel, this is why, with so many single mothers in this society, children are at a big risk.

            *****Both statement s above are true for me. I was in a single parent home and a child molester came to my home and befriended me right under my mothers nose. He was much older than me and I was starved for love. My mom never even tried to chase this man away. He sexually assaulted me. I was at big risk, just like you said. This man would have never been so bold if I had a dad in my home.

            • Alethea says:

              “This man would have never been so bold if I had a dad in my home.”

              There is a good reason for male/female parents. Children need a two parent situation with male/female energies. Each sex offers beautiful things to children for growth, protection, and stability.

              children are vulnerable and innocent. They have no choice in life. They are at the whim of adult sex drives, adult weaknesses and selfishness. There is a damn good reason for the way things used to be…where men and women dated without sex, took time to get to know one another….where they grew to understand each other, their beliefs, religious background, and values….where they waited to have sex, and had sex for children and family life…based on two parents of the opposite sex…based on people having similar values and similar religious beliefs.

              In the times we live, children are brought into this world with indiscriminate sex after two people have known one another for three days. They are abandoned by a mother who has no time for children, is unmarried, and doesn’t even love the guys she slept with…so the child is then adopted by two lesbian women, or two gay men.

              Or children are brought up in homes where parents are too busy for them, and stick the child in front of a TV or video game so the child learns about violence and killing, in order to get what they want. Then one parent falls in love with someone else and divorces their spouse, leaving little children with no stability, with no understanding of what it means to be selfless, and thus, left with a broken family.

              These are very hard times for children.

            • little nel says:

              Hi Gail,

              “He sexually assaulted me. I was at big risk, just like you said. This man would have never been so bold if I had a dad in my home.”

              I am sorry to learn that a man like my father was able to sexually abuse you because your father was not living in your home. Father’s protect their little girls from predators like the man who assaulted you, and the predators know it. They know that they can deceive the mothers when dad is not living in the home. My father used to brag that women were stupid and deserved to be mistreated by men.

              • Gail says:

                I am sorry to learn that a man like my father was able to sexually abuse you because your father was not living in your home.

                >Thanks for your empathy, it is very soothing to my mind. Many thanks!

    • Gail says:

      Thanks for speaking out. You are very encouraging and inspire me 100 percent.

  3. little nel says:

    The step-father looks like a native Alaskan of Asian stock.

    I read in college that the sexual abuse of native children like those who live in the cold northern regions practice incest as a normal way of life. I read that they have customs that allow a man to have sex with the husband’s wife when visiting their home also. It’s a cultural thing.

    Maybe this man felt entitled to sexually abuse his step-daughters because of his culture and his headship of his home.

    • My stepfather is Yupik Eskimo from the village of Marshall on the Yukon River. I have heard similar reports about the culture but do not know whether it is true. I have observed a culture in crisis with rampant alcoholism, child sexual abuse and suicide. I believe that historically, things were quite different.

      • little nel says:

        Hi Kimberly,
        Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry about the tragic loss of your sisters. They must have been in so much emotional pain. Five children have lost their mothers because of the cruelty of one man and a wife who couldn’t acknowledge the abuse.

        Those of us who know the pain of childhood sexual abuse and it’s damage to our lives, know as no one else does. We understand and hope that you find the peace and healing that we have found.

        Two of my brothers attempted suicide, but I was able, by the Grace of God, to prevent them from dying and helped them get into therapy.

        I am sorry to hear that the Yupik Eskimos are a culture in crisis. Rampant alcoholism, child abuse of all kinds, domestic violence, and suicide are connected in tragic proportions in families that do not have solutions for those issues or a way of escaping.

        It sounds like the Yupik Eskimos are trauma bonded without a way out of their misery.

  4. Tornad0sRul says:

    Also, as a mother, I would never fear anything that would cause me to be silent about someone harming my child. There is nothing or no one who could get to my child if I suspected that they may harm them. Those women who do that are definitely mentally ill, but they are also selfish and heartless, and they should not and do not deserve to have children at all. Women use that as an excuse because they allowed someone to molest their child for their own comfort and well being. Women, parents, and mothers ALWAYS use that as an excuse, which is exactly why there is still so much sexual abuse occurring. There is no excuse for looking away or allowing the sexual abuse of a child, not even fear of your own life.

    • Alethea says:

      In New Mexico, fear is no excuse, that’s the law. I think all states ought to adopt that wisdom.

  5. Tornad0sRul says:

    I advocate every day to start holding mothers, parents, caregivers, personally, civilly, and criminally responsible for the sexual abuse of their children, but I get attacked with anger every time I simply mention a mother’s responsibility. There is an inherent angry-filled defensiveness when it comes to mothers, and parents in general. Watch for it and you will definitely see it. That is the only reason why millions of children are drugged and placed into “special” programs at school for naughty children. Children are drugged and placed into those programs in an effort to pacify and quiet the parents, not to help the child. If they really wanted to the help the child they would find the behavior in their environment that is causing them to behave accordingly. The mere mention of a parent being responsible for their child’s behavior in any way is inviting hatred and anger like I have never seen before. Parents, and especially mothers who are usually the closest and most nurturing parent, are experts at covering up their mistakes/errors. If not for the mother’s help, pedophiles/child molesters would NOT succeed. If fact, without the help of MANY adults surrounding a targeted child, the molester could not succeed. That is exactly why those many adults need to be held responsible and accountable. Until that happens pedophiles will continue to permanently damage millions of children every single year. In what world is it ok to look away from a crime? If it were murder the mothers would be put in jail right along with the offender with no questions asked. But with child sexual abuse the mother is hidden from responsibility and almost babied. It disgusts me the women who I personally know who look away or purposely allow sexual abuse to their children, their grandchildren, the children they care for, etc. Dottie Sandusky should be in prison for many years for what she did yet she walks away scot-free from any punishment whatsoever? WHAT?? This world needs help, and quickly.

    • Alethea says:


      I tried to get the laws in my state implemented to hold women accountable. When I called the state’s attorney’s office, the woman asked me with shock and surprise, “You want a woman charged with a 3rd degree felony?!” Like, ‘How dare you?!’

      So I know the anger you speak of, and it most often comes from WOMEN.

      “In what world is it ok to look away from a crime?”

      I remember thinking that if Mike McQuery had seen that ten year-old boy beaten up by Jerry Sandusky in the shower, he would have stopped it. I think he would have pounced on Sandusky and called police immediately. But because the crime was a sex crime, he looked the other way. That is our world.

      • I think it would have been particularly cruel and unfair to jail my mother over then crimes committed by her husband against my sisters and me. You see, my mother was a victim of child sexual abuse herself. I believe her own unresolved trauma and resulting psychological needs made it difficult for her to see the situation clearly. I also believe that Peter was a victim of this terrible crime and the pain and damage goes on and on. Peter, however, is far more culpable due to the fact that HE committed crimes against children. My mother NEEDED to believe that Peter was a good man who truly loved her because that knowledge filled a deep psychological need within her that was created by her own childhood trauma. The abuse tells you that you are no good, that you are not valuable and worthy of true love and protection. Victims are left looking for external validation of their worth; often from those least capable of giving it. I consider this problem to be our number one social ill as it contributes to many others. I believe that every discussion about high school drop out rates, teen pregnancy, teen rebellion, drug abuse, alcoholism, criminal activity, obesity, eating disorders, and suicide needs include child sexual abuse as a possible contributing factor.

        • Alethea says:

          Dear Kimberly,

          I don’t think the other commentor was talking about jailing your mother. I was not either.

          I, like you, feel your step-father was sexually abused as a child. This is why I do not feel it is any different to treat the woman as a victim, and not the perpetrator. Each of them have serious psychological issues. They both have low self-worth, fear, anger, and shame inside. Why do we as a society then excuse the women who willingly look the other way to sexual abuse, but not also excuse the man who perpetrates it?

          In most cases, the woman is driven by selfishness, fear, a need to keep her man around, and out of a need for money to come in. She is essentially prostituting out her children to the father or boyfriend. She is then no better than the man. Some women hold the child down during the rapes, or tell the child, “just keep away from him.”

          These are the mothers who should be jailed. I cannot judge your mother, as I do not know all the facts.

          Peter also had a deep psychological need within him that was, most-likely, created by his own childhood trauma. The abuse he probably suffered as a child told him that he was no good. He was a victim himself, and therefore, I do not hold mothers who do nothing, any less responsible than the man.

          Each case should be treated on an individual basis, but many of the women who know and do thing, should be prosecuted.

          • I do realize that your comments were not directed at MY mother. But I made the application myself and don’t see that it would fit. Thank you for this discussion. This is a topic that is not discussed nearly enough.

            • Alethea says:

              Thanks Kimberley. Internet discussions can be tedious. It would be nice to sit down over a cup of tea for us to all discuss things…but we can’t do that, so we are left with having to figure out the meaning and tone of all our comments 🙂


  6. little nel says:

    “I wonder how many suicides are attributed to child sexual abuse every year?”

    I don’t know how an accurate accounting could be determined because most victims keep silent about sexual abuse and/or deny it. For some women admitting the abuse is more fearful than death.

    I know that the most common denominator in alcoholic women who seek treatment for their uncontrolled drinking is rape and childhood sexual abuse with childhood sexual abuse being the number one reason for their desire to die.

    We do know that alcoholic females of all ages attempt suicide at a high rate and succeed many times.

  7. little nel says:

    Why is it that people believe that it is not incest if a step-father abuses a step-daughter?

    When I told my father’s sister about the sexual abuse, she replied that it was OK because my step-sister who was 12 had “consented” and she was not blood related.

    When I asked her about me and my father’s desire for sexual relations with me, she got all emotional and couldn’t talk to me anymore.

    I believe that my grandfather sexually abused her as evidenced by her reaction.

    • Alethea says:

      I have to wonder what the motivation was of that commentor. He or she seemed pretty angry at me.

      • JillScott says:

        It sounds like he or she is defending someone or a relationship with someone (who is not a blood relative) who has sexually assaulted her. She may have a trauma bond. I pray that truth finds it’s way into her heart and mind. Trauma bonds suck! I would rather have a bond with a puppy!

  8. DAX says:

    Its not incest if it is not a blood relative. FOOL.

    • Alethea says:

      “Incest is sexual intercourse between family members and close relatives.The term may apply to sexual intercourse between individuals in a close “blood relationship”, members of the same household, step relatives, those related by adoption or marriage, or members of the same clan or lineage.”

      • In my case, no sexual intercourse took place, or if it did, I have repressed it. What did happen was fondling that caused sexual arousal and attempted penetration. I was 8-years-old. Even though the abuse I suffered was relatively minor, it still did profound psychological damage. I believe my younger sister’s abuse escalated to intercourse as it covered a period of 7 years and continued into her teens. Thanks for sharing my story.

        • Alethea says:

          Kimberley. I commend and applaud you for your strength and courage. You are an awesome person to go public and share your pain. I am deeply saddened by your sister’s suicides. DEEPLY. Because, if I had not had the therapy that I have been so fortunate to have had, I too probably would have taken my life.

          Because you brought up intercourse, I am going to say that when I read of their suicides and the case, I felt right away that there must have been penetration involved.

          and because you brought it up, I will say that if you have repressed any penetration, it is normal to so, and quite common. It is a self-protection system that enables victims to handle life *for a time*, but the soul wants to be healed and will cry out for help eventually.

          I have a friend who was sexually molested by her uncle, and just at the point where she says he was coming at her for penetration, she lost all memory, but she does have a very sharp pain in her vagina off and on as an adult –a pain that is unexplainable by doctors. I too suffered from that unexplainable sharp vaginal pain for years while the memories were breaking through.

          If you ever need help with ANYTHING. Please contact me.


          • Gail says:

            I too suffered from that unexplainable sharp vaginal pain for years while the memories were breaking through.

            ********The pain I experienced is almost unbearable. I experienced vaginal burning and nausea and I threw up. I saw a checklist and all my symptoms were on it. The perpetrator bragged about his body part being large. I hate him …..or what he did to me. I don’t know what sex is supposed to be like because of this rapist. My body feels broken. God will heal it.

            • Alethea says:

              Gail, I am so sorry that you have suffered that pain. God heals, but you must face your past head on in order to heal. That pain can go, and can be healed by The Grace of God, but you need appropriate psychotherapy to heal it.

              • Gail says:

                Do you recommend the Hypno-analysis therapy and Psychotherapy? Are they the same or similar? I am not sure where to start when I am financially ready to begin healing. Thanks.

              • Alethea says:

                Hypno-analysis therapy is used along with Psychotherapy. My therapist uses both. In my experience, and knowledge, BOTH are vital to true healing and liberation.

                But I cannot attest to the kind of hypno-analysis that other therapists do…only to my own therapist’s work. To my knowledge, what she does is quite unique. There are techniques that work to a degree, but what she does, truly heals to the core level, and can heal physical disease that doctors usually treat with drugs and surgery.

              • Gail says:

                Thanks so much for your answer and your generosity and kindness! You are a beautiful person. 🙂

            • little nel says:

              “My body feels broken”
              Many of us can identify with your pain and feelings, Gail.
              I know that I felt broken in body, mind, and soul. I used to think that I was like Humpty Dumpty and that I could not be put back together again because the brokenness was too great. I was wrong and I am so glad that I was wrong.

              • Gail says:

                I used to think that I was like Humpty Dumpty and that I could not be put back together again because the brokenness was too great.

                >I have felt like Humpty Dumpty for a long time. Thank you for your encouraging words regarding how this nursery rhyme is not correct for those who are sexually abused. We can be put back together again! I am encouraged by your words. Thanks so much.

  9. Chris and Judy says:

    Thank you so much again. May there be healing and hope for the families. I was in Bethel briefly in the mid 70’s…what a difficult place. I myself had attempted suicide more than once by then.

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