Joan Vennochi

For Brown, a perplexing connection

In light of his sexual abuse revelation, why did he back Jeff Perry?

(Getty Images)
By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / February 20, 2011

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SENATOR SCOTT Brown’s revelations about a childhood that included sexual assault by a summer camp counselor are genuinely sympathy-inducing.

But, they also make you wonder: in light of this searing experience when he was 10, how could Brown endorse Jeff Perry, the Republican congressional candidate, who, in 1991, allegedly stood by as a 14-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a fellow police officer?

The victim, Lisa Allen, came forward during the race that Perry ultimately lost and said that Perry “had to hear my screaming and crying. Instead of helping me, Jeff Perry denied anything happened.’’

It’s an eerie echo of the personal trauma Brown reveals in his book, “Against All Odds.’’ As he tells “60 Minutes’’ correspondent Lesley Stahl, he never went to police or any authority — and told no one, not even his mother — because his abuser told him: “If you tell anybody, you know, I’ll kill you. I will make sure that no one believes you.’’

Adds Brown in the interview that will be aired tonight: “When people find people like me at that young vulnerable age, who are basically lost, the thing that they have over you is, they make you believe that no one will believe you.’’

Despite his own horrific experience, Brown still chose to believe Perry over Allen; or, if he didn’t believe him, he still backed him for an important political position. Given that Brown is the father of two daughters, his loyalty to Perry was always curious. The revelations in his book make it even odder. In response, Brown said there is “no correlation’’ between his story and Allen’s and it is “really inappropriate’’ to link them.

Brown’s candor about his own past won instant praise from victims of child sex abuse and their advocates. It sends a powerful message to others who suffered abuse, they said.

Five years ago, Brown was among supporters of a state bill that extended the period of time in which a victim of sex abuse could file charges against a perpetrator. He called sexual abuse the “number one public safety issue affecting us here in the Commonwealth,’’ according to the State House News Service. He also cosponsored a federal bill that would limit the ability of those convicted of sex abuse from working in a variety of settings. When Brown was running for US Senate, he and Democratic opponent Martha Coakley said they would ask Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley to release the names of all priests in the archdiocese who were credibly accused of sexual abuse. (Only one legislator, former state senator Marian Walsh, called for Cardinal Bernard F. Law to be prosecuted when the clergy abuse scandal rocked the Boston Archdiocese.)

Brown’s book is perfectly timed, from both marketing and political standpoints.

His dramatic disclosures overshadow those of Governor Deval Patrick, whose new book, “A Reason to Believe,’’ addresses race issues and his wife’s depression. And Brown’s book puts the Massachusetts senator back in the spotlight just as talk about the 2012 Senate race starts heating up.

Brown’s tough childhood was a general part of the narrative when he won the Senate seat held for decades by Ted Kennedy. But his pickup and semi-nude Cosmopolitan photo spread got most of the attention.

In his book, which goes on sale tomorrow, he also reveals that it took two photo shoots to get the famous 1982 centerfold. The first time, “I looked pale and I wasn’t physically toned; I probably needed to lose 10 pounds,’’ he wrote. When he returned after a crash diet of three cans of tuna a day, “I was bronzed and toned.’’

Even Brown’s glamour shot has an “everyman’’ story behind it, leading to this question for Massachusetts Democrats: can anyone beat Brown?

Democrats still find it hard to accept that Kennedy’s seat went to a Republican who brilliantly rechristened it “the people’s seat.’’

Now, Brown will be collecting new accolades for bravery. Given Patrick’s tome, it’s hard to tag him as uniquely opportunistic.

But it’s still fair to wonder: given his life story, why did he stand behind a man who allegedly stood by while a young girl was under assault?

Joan Vennochi can be reached at