New Hampshire politician now charged with rape got elected despite violent past

By Sady Doyle
Friday, April 8, 2011 14:26 EDT
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Jeffrey Gray is an elected member of the Salem, New Hampshire Planning Board charged with kidnapping a woman, keeping her in his house in Windham, NH for three days, and sexually assaulting her. But this isn’t the first time Gray has been accused of terrorizing women — in fact, his history of violence against women goes back a startling 13 years.

He allegedly met his latest victim after she responded to roommate want-ad that he posted on Craigslist. Many of the trial details are sealed to protect the identity of his victim, though news reports indicate that he held her against her will and raped her over the course of several days before he drove her to Boston’s Logan Airport and she was able to contact authorities.

Given the extent of his criminal past, it’s surprising to many that Gray was a free man, let alone an elected official. The Eagle-Tribune recently reported in detail on the earlier charges, which include multiple restraining orders and several convictions — including for assault. In 2003, Gray forced his then- girlfriend onto a bed “by grabbing her by the wrists and lying on her body with his body.” The womanʼs son heard her scream, and came to her. Gray reportedly punched him in the face.

Gray walked away from the assault conviction with mandatory drug and alcohol counseling and a six-month suspended sentence. He’s since served short jail sentences for violating restraining orders.

Windham prosecutor Heather Newell says that people within the community have a right to be disturbed by repeat offender cases like these.

“Most community members believe in the justice system, and when a suspect or defendant has a past criminal history of similar behavior, it is disconcerting,” she said. “People want to know why the offender offended again. Was the original punishment not harsh enough? Should the offender have been placed in jail? Did the offender receive any treatment?”

But Gray’s history of violence against those closest to him not only didn’t draw national attention in the same way his kidnapping and rape charges have — they didn’t even affect Grayʼs electability in his home town. He was elected to the board in 2009 and has refused to step down. It was only in the wake of the latest charges that his colleagues attempted to remove him.

Author and advocate Jaclyn Friedman says that’s because “So much media coverage of rape focuses on stranger-danger,” rather than the risks women face from those they know. “We know that somewhere around 80 percent of all rapes are committed by people who know their victims.” She argues that one reason this case is drawing strong responses is that the woman bringing the case is “a stranger from the internet,” not a wife or girlfriend. “We, as a culture, take that so much less seriously. We want to conceive of it as a ‘private matter’ that there may be ‘two sides’ of,” she added, noting that many convicted rapists also have histories of domestic violence or child abuse.

But despite the attention drawn by this case, survivor advocates insist that repeat offenders are depressingly average — even among those in a position of prominence in their communities. Grace Mattern of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence even said that it was not unusual for elected officials to be batterers — she could recall other cases, within recent memory and equally close to home.

Watch a video about the case, first uploaded by NECN on March 30, 2011, below:

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