Gail Huff, the former TV anchor and reporter and the wife of former US senator Scott Brown, revealed on Friday night that she, like her husband, had been the victim of a sexual assault.
Speaking at a fund-raiser for sexual assault victims and their families, Huff firmly told the crowd of about 200 people that she was a victim while attending Boston University in 1980. The revelation was particularly poignant because the foundation putting on the event at the Ritz-Carlton Boston was founded by the parents of another BU student who was sexually assaulted.
Brown disclosed in 2011 that he was a victim of sexual abuse as a youth.
The It Happened to Alexa Foundation is named for Alexa Branchini, who was raped at knifepoint in a BU dormitory bathroom in 1999 by a man hiding in the shower. Throughout her long and traumatizing trial, her parents, Stacey and Tom Branchini, traveled from Buffalo to Boston to support their daughter while she testified against her attacker, Abdelmajid Akouk, until he was convicted by a jury.
The Branchinis later created the foundation, which provides financial assistance to families traveling to be with sexual assault victims during criminal trials.
Huff, a former TV reporter and anchor, and her husband were honored Friday night for their dedication to strengthening laws against sexual violence and rape.
Brown was out of town on business, but thanked the organization in a video message played at the event.
Huff, who accepted an award from the group, spoke openly to the Globe and the guests about her experience.
“You see, what happened to Alexa, happened to Gail,” Huff, 51, said. “Both of them were teenage girls starting out their lives, both of them students at BU, both attacked in bathrooms by total strangers, both threatened they would be killed.”
She said she also testified against her attacker, but because of a lack of sufficient evidence, the jury found him not guilty and he was released. Huff said that because he was free, she lived in fear for many years.
Brown publicly disclosed in 2011 that he was sexually assaulted by a counselor at a summer camp on Cape Cod, and that he was sexually threatened by a teenage boy when he was 7 years old.
Huff remained silent about her experience for 33 years, but said she decided to share her story Friday because she was surrounded by a group of people who “understand how important it is to help families.”
The Branchinis hope that by easing the financial burden of travel for victims’ families, more women and men who are raped will testify in court and their attackers will be convicted, allowing the victims to move on from their tragic experience.
The organization raised over $40,000 for victims in 2012, according to Stacey Branchini.
“We are so impressed with all that has been done,” she said of the fund-raising and its benefits. “We have met one bad person who made our daughter’s life miserable for a very long time, but since then we have met so many wonderful, generous people.”
Ellen Augello, the executive director of the organization, said there are no rigid financial need requirements to be considered eligible for the foundation’s help.
“We believe that being a victim shouldn’t cost you anything,” she said.
Alexa, who was studying to be a veterinarian at BU when she was attacked, is pursuing her PhD in criminal justice at Indiana University, according to her mother.
Huff believes the reason her attacker went free and Alexa’s did not was because of the many legislative changes made in the 20 years between the two attacks. Those legislative drives also helped support the victims of sexual violence, but Huff believes there is still much more that needs to be done.
The “Justice is Served Celebration” at the Ritz also featured a silent auction.