Kenyon: After being abused as a child, Hanover High graduate fights back

Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

By JIM KENYON

Valley News Columnist

Published: 06-19-2023 10:22 AM

The choice was hers.
Sanna McAuliffe could have the three-page victim impact statement that she’d written entered into the court record and left it at that. She could have someone else — a family member or an attorney — read it on her behalf as she sat silently in the background. Or she could have avoided the courtroom drama altogether by reading the statement via Zoom.

McAuliffe chose none of the above.

Nearly 30 years after she was sexually assaulted by her then-stepfather, Malcolm Fogg, as a child, McAuliffe stood at the front of the courtroom, gave her name and told her story.

“I wanted it to come from me,” she said in an interview last week. “These are my words, my voice. For so long, everyone else spoke for me.”

McAuliffe was six years old — a Hanover first grader — in February 1993 when she was home alone with Fogg on a weekend afternoon. With her mother and two older sisters out of the house, Fogg “sat me down on our living room couch, undid my pants and, for his own pleasure, put his hands in my vagina. I remember feeling very scared,” McAuliffe said, reading from the statement she delivered at Fogg’s sentencing hearing last October in Grafton Superior Court.

Fogg, who pleaded guilty to aggravated felonious sexual assault, was sentenced to one year in the county jail. With so-called good time taken into account, Fogg, 74, could be released as early as this week.

The length of Fogg’s sentence was much less than he likely would have received if he’d been prosecuted and convicted at the time of the crime. But after watching Fogg escape justice all these years, McAuliffe recognized it was probably the best outcome she could expect.

Her mind is eased a bit, knowing that Fogg must register with the state as a sex offender, which will “finally protect other children” from potential abuse, McAuliffe said in her impact statement.

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McAuliffe, now 37, lives in Concord, Mass., with her husband, Kevin, and their three children, ages seven, three and one.

“It didn’t really hit me until I was a mom myself,” she told me. “Now as a mother, I want to protect other children from the kind of abuse that I suffered.”

Shortly after she was molested, McAuliffe found the courage to tell her mother. Ruth Fogg took McAuliffe to see the family’s pediatrician. As required under the 1979 Child Protection Act, the doctor reported the incident to the state.

A worker from New Hampshire child protective services, what is now the Division for Children, Youth and Families, better known as DCYF, contacted Hanover police.

Det. Nick Giaccone, who later became the town’s police chief, handled the case. Giaccone and a state social worker interviewed McAuliffe and her mother, who said that her husband had admitted to the crime.

But police didn’t interview Fogg, a salesman who traveled for months at a time. He was in Wisconsin when police and the child protective services department dropped the investigation.

Ruth Fogg didn’t press the matter. “There was such a stigma associated with sexual abuse, my mother was afraid of what the community might think,” Christina Nihan, the oldest of the family’s three daughters, said in an interview last week.

The Foggs divorced less than a year later. Ruth Fogg died in 2014 from cancer at age 54.

Giaccone, who served as chief for 19 years, retired in 2013, following a stroke. He died in 2017.

In 2021, Nihan called Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis, who arrived in town in 2014. From what Nihan described, it was clear that the case “needed to be looked at,” Dennis told me last week.

The first step was having McAuliffe file a police report. Under New Hampshire law, juvenile sexual assault victims have until age 40 to register a complaint.

A search of DCYF records came up empty. After the investigation was closed, the department purged the file. Fortunately, Hanover police were able to find Giaccone’s 1993 report still in its computer system.

“This does not appear to be (a) case where there would be any gain by going to criminal court,” Giaccone concluded. “The mother appears to be (an) extremely intelligent individual who is ready to handle the problem.”

After Hanover police reopened the investigation in 2021, a former FBI agent named Richard Schoeberl, of Nashville, Tenn., took up McAuliffe’s cause as well.

A friend put Nihan in touch with Schoeberl, the U.S. team leader for Hope for Justice, an international nonprofit headquartered in England. Hope for Justice focuses on human trafficking cases, and although McAuliffe’s case didn’t fall into that category, Schoeberl wanted to help put Fogg behind bars.

The failure of Hanover police and New Hampshire’s child protective services department to pursue a criminal case in 1993 was “clearly a dereliction of duties,” Schoeberl said in a phone interview.

“It takes someone who is really strong and confident to carry this burden for so many years,” he added. “People like Sanna are rare.”

The Valley News doesn’t usually identify survivors of sexual assault. McAuliffe, who graduated from Hanover High School in 2004, wanted her name to be public to show other sexual assault survivors that “you can talk about it and fight back.”

McAuliffe, a vice president at Fidelity Investments in Boston, hired Norwich attorney George Ostler to help navigate the legal process.

“I didn’t trust the system, so I needed someone who knew how the system works,” McAuliffe said.

While her case is over, McAuliffe doesn’t consider her work done. “I’m sure there are victims of abuse out there who are still waiting for justice to be served,” she said. “I want to help them any way that I can.”

Her story — and the courage she showed in telling it that late October day in a Grafton County courtroom — was no better place to start.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.