A former student who was sexually assaulted by her Catholic elementary school teacher showed in court Wednesday morning that she has reclaimed her life and that, after overcoming years of pain, she is moving forward.
In a powerful statement that barely referred to her attacker, the young woman first spoke of the fear, the shame and the loss she felt after Mary Rose Brady seduced and assaulted her in 2009, when she was still in school.
“I will never get back the time in my life when I wasn’t able to hug people,” the woman said. “I won’t forget the pain. … I felt I wasn’t strong enough to stop what was happening. I was unable to lift the darkness that encompassed my body and my soul.”
Brady, now 48, pleaded guilty in April to two counts of attempted sexual conduct with a person under the age of 17 – charges reduced from the four felonies she originally faced. State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski sentenced her Wednesday to six years of probation. Brady, a former Teacher of the Year at Notre Dame Academy in South Buffalo, also has surrendered her New York State teacher’s license and can no longer work in schools.
Prosecutor Rosanne E. Johnson, head of the Special Victims Bureau in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, condemned Brady’s actions, saying the teacher abused her position and “groomed” her victim by befriending her and taking her into her home. The breach of trust was almost as devastating to the former student as Brady’s physical actions, Johnson said.
Nevertheless, she praised the young woman for eventually coming forward and being a survivor.
“Because she had the strength and incredible capacity to get herself through her ordeal, she inspired others,” Johnson said.
In her statement to the court, the young woman said that, by being able to reveal her paralyzing secret and seeing her abuser held accountable, she was finally able to free herself from its hold over her. “I no longer have to live in fear that not having a voice for so long gave her a chance to hurt somebody else,” she said. “Because of what I went through, I had to reclaim my identity, my ability to love, my ability to have hope, my ability to touch. I have learned to take nothing for granted.”
Brady was unable emotionally to speak to the court, her attorney Anthony J. Lana said, so he spoke on her behalf. He told of the dozens of letters of support that had been written by former co-workers, her parish priest, friends, neighbors and former students. They painted an image of a person whose life was in direct contrast to the actions she pleaded guilty to committing, he said.
“The actions here, we can’t rectify them with logic,” Lana said. He cited the opinion of a doctor who analyzed Brady after her arrest in January, who said her behavior toward the former student was “in the service of a pathological emotional need rather than a deviant sexual need.”
With his client standing quietly beside him in a rose-colored sweater and floral dress, Lana assured the court that these crimes were a unique event in Brady’s life and that he was confident that nothing like it would happen again.
He concluded, “She is going to be an exemplary probationer, mother, wife and friend.”
The judge agreed that while Brady needed to be held accountable, it appeared that having her under probation supervision and in mental health treatment would be the best way to protect the community.
“You truly are an enigma to me,” Michalski told Brady. “I’ve seen a lot of these cases, but I’ve really never seen anything like this. It’s incomprehensible that the person your supporters describe is the person responsible for this criminal conduct.”
Michalski also reminded Brady that she is not to have any contact with the victim for six years. Brady also is now a registered sex offender.