NOTE: Hope for Justice would not usually identify survivors, however for this article, Sanna McAuliffe asked us to use her real name. “By going public with my story and my voice, I hope to provide hope and courage to other survivors,” she said.
A survivor of child sexual abuse, whose perpetrator was finally brought to justice after nearly 30 years, says that the support she received from Hope for Justice is one of the reasons she felt able to move forward with the case.
Sanna McAuliffe was six years old when the abuse happened. Although it was reported at the time and the abuser – who was at that point her stepfather – admitted what had happened, the investigation was wrongly ended and then buried, and he lived in freedom for nearly three decades. That was until Sanna decided, despite the anxiety and trauma she felt, that she needed to seek justice and do everything she could to get the investigation re-opened and done properly this time.
“I knew right from wrong at a very young age,” she told us. “I had the courage to go to my mother just a few short days after the abuse had happened and tell her, because I knew that what had been done to my body wasn’t right. Fast forward through the next 29 years, I’ve been able to live a life where I went to school, went to college, graduated, had a job, got married…
“And yet through all of that, this wound has been a part of me.”
Connecting with Hope for Justice
Sanna received support from her sisters, and it was her sister Christina who connected her with Hope for Justice soon after she had decided to step up her renewed attempts to ensure there was a criminal investigation, in mid-2021.
“I felt like my ‘survivor’ only came through as I started to go through that criminal process,” she told us. “I felt like I needed to be a survivor for myself and for my children and for others who have been subjected to abuse as a child. I want to empower others so they too see that it’s never too late to do what’s right, and it’s never too late to heal yourself.”
Richard Schoeberl, Hope for Justice’s U.S. Team Leader, explained the help we were able to offer: “We advocated for Sanna, looking into the past allegations, locating the stepfather and sharing that information with the state’s victim coordinator. This case had fallen through the cracks. We worked with her to counsel her on the right path to take in order to get this investigation resurrected.”
‘They are the reason I moved forward’
Together with our Senior Investigator David Gonzalez, our team helped Sanna feel empowered to take the next steps.
She said: “I can say that Rich and David are the reason I moved forward. They told me it could take time – but not another 29 years. They showed thoughtfulness and advocacy and trust. I feel really grateful that I was surrounded with advocates through all of this – from talking to my sisters and having them next to me, through to [my sister] Christina finding Hope for Justice, and having the confidence to reach out to family friends to see if they had connections who could help.”
With help also from a local survivor organization called WISE, Sanna got the police department to look again into the case, and she got further assistance from her lawyer, George Ostler.
Sanna’s efforts culminated in a sentencing hearing in October 2022. The charge that Malcolm Fogg (of Lyme, New Hampshire) pleaded guilty to was aggravated felonious sexual assault, for which he was sentenced to 12 months in the Grafton County House of Corrections plus two years on probation. While the sentence was acknowledged even by the judge as being “light”, Sanna says it was better than the alternatives – dragging everything out even further or having to go through a trial if his lawyers did not take the plea deal.
“Until I really started to dive into the case, I didn’t realize the amount of trauma that’s probably inside of me,” she said. Her mother, who died in 2014, divorced Fogg the same year the abuse happened, but he had briefly been back in the house with them before the divorce.
“Both my parents have gone through their own trauma from the abuse – betrayal, anger and feelings of shame for not being able to protect me and my sisters – and specifically my father. My father was not alerted by authorities of the abuse, although he had joint custody of us, and felt betrayed for not being able to protect his children. Especially when Malcom was let back into our home, to sleep in our house, next to my bedroom, less than two months after the incident.”
Sanna only saw Fogg on a couple of occasions in the years since the abuse; once soon after the divorce and again about 10 years ago, which resurfaced some trauma for her. “I was in a store, returning something. I heard his voice and I froze and then I left.”
Sanna said that pursuing justice began to make her feel differently. “With the criminal case, I felt so empowered. Having my voice heard, looking straight at the judge, knowing that I am doing this for myself, for my children, for other survivors – and that I’m not stopping here.”
Sanna explained why she does not think the criminal case should be the end of the matter.
“Malcolm needed to be held accountable, that was the number one thing. And then the unfolding of all of those systemic failures was just as traumatic, I would say, as the act was – learning of the failure of the system to protect me and my sisters and other children he had been around. Now, I want to help others if the system fails them. Although policies have changed, I am sure this is still happening today. I want to help arm other people with resources to seek justice: to surround themselves with advocates and with support. So that they don’t hear ‘well, it was different back then’.”
That is why she is now exploring the steps she could take about the failings in the 1990s and the years since as to how and why the case was allowed to be ended by a single police detective (who has since died), and the relevant documents purged. Under the New Hampshire Child Protection Act of 1979, that should not have been allowed to happen, she says. “That decision required me to have to re-tell the story, over and over again, and bring it all back to the forefront of my mind. As I went through the process, I realized that I should not have to go through this and do it myself, it should have been done on my behalf when I was a child.
“Where I am now, it’s about bringing accountability and shedding light on the systemic failures. I didn’t back down when people said not to go forward with the criminal case – I’m not going to back down on this either.”
Sanna says that the fact that the police and the state did not protect her and her sisters from Malcolm, and effectively allowed him to come back into their home after the abuse was reported by not prosecuting him at the time, was a violation of the Child Protection Act and should be seen as child endangerment.
She said: “While I don’t remember more abuse, I do remember having to hug him, him sleeping in my home, and deal with the trauma of not being protected by those in power.”
The involvement of Hope for Justice
Hope for Justice has extensive experience of supporting survivors of historic abuse. While Sanna McAuliffe’s case, on investigation, was not one involving human trafficking but rather family-based abuse, our team decided to continue to offer the support that was needed to ensure justice was done.
Senior Investigator David Gonzalez explained that he has worked many other investigations that began with apparently single incidents that ended up linked to a wider pattern of exploitation, trafficking and other crimes. “In all cases like this, we must continue the investigation in order to determine the truth and then take action if necessary,” he said. “To determine what happened, how it happened, who it happened to, where it happened and does it end here with one victim, or are there more victims in need of assistance? In cases like this, we must be vigilant in our pursuit to identify additional victims, if any, for any assistance we can provide, including victim services and justice. Investigating these types of cases, I’ve found it not uncommon for defendants to have committed multiple criminal acts, such as sexual abuse of a minor and then we later learn of a possible trafficking situation – we will leave no stone unturned in seeking to determine whether human trafficking exists when we investigate a report like this one.”
The sentencing was front-page news in the local Valley News paper and was seen widely on social media.
Sanna (pictured here with her youngest son; she was pregnant and gave birth during the criminal process) said: “After the case, I heard from hundreds of people – praise, thanks, people in shock because they didn’t know this about me. I wasn’t ashamed. I knew that getting my story out was going to continue to help me to heal, and hopefully help others and to make change in policies and procedures that failed me.
“Going through this whole process has given me so much more confidence to pursue what’s right. I feel empowered by it. I want to continue to make a difference. I’m not hiding behind having been a minor. If someone had done the right thing back then, it would have been different – who knows. I’m glad to be able to use my voice and the confidence I have in my story to continue to heal and protect and help others.”
To anyone else trying to seek justice, whether for sexual abuse or human trafficking or any other crime, Sanna said her message is: “Trust yourself and surround yourself with people you can trust.”
She added: “Don’t let anyone try to make you waiver from what your ultimate goal is: justice. Surround yourself with people such as those from Hope for Justice or local advocacy programs that can help arm you with resources to see it through. You are not alone. Use your voice. Others – whether predators or just those in authority – will probably try to speak for you. Don’t let that happen. Let your voice come through.”
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