It’s not easy to speak up about child sex abuse.
In fact, finding the courage to come forward can take years, or possibly decades. And even then, feelings of shame, fear, anger and isolation often resurface for survivors of abuse. Speaking up requires returning to a dark place, which is why reporting it to authorities can be so difficult.
Child sexual abuse knows no social or economic boundaries, and it is most often perpetrated by someone the child knows. Abusers can be manipulative, convincing their victims to stay quiet, or that the abuse is normal. They might isolate their victims and make them feel alone.
But the reality is, victims of child sex abuse are not alone. Every eight minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the United States. And for some, decades may pass before they are able to find the strength to speak out about the abuse.
For Desirae and Deondra Brown, it took years to come forward. Critically acclaimed pianists and members of the famed quintet The 5 Browns, they attended The Juilliard School in New York, toured extensively around the globe, and made numerous television appearances. However, for many years, they didn’t know that each other had been abused by their father — Desirae and Deondra each thought she was alone.
They discovered the truth one night after one of their concerts, when Desirae broached the subject and asked her sister if she too had been abused. It was then that they learned they had each been molested by their father before the age of 14, along with their sister Melody.
When the sisters revealed what had happened to them, they experienced what many survivors of sexual abuse endure; their credibility was questioned, their abuser tried to play it down, and the legal process to press charges was a long and arduous one. But finally, 15 years after the abuse originally occurred, Keith Brown was found guilty of first- and second-degree felony counts for sexually abusing his three daughters, and is now serving time in prison.
The Brown sisters’ story is one of strength, courage and determination in the face of daunting challenges. Today, Desirae and Deondra Brown are both helping other survivors heal through their organization, The Foundation for Survivors of Abuse. By working to change unjust laws regarding the statute of limitations for prosecuting abuse, they have continued to speak up for their fellow survivors, and to speak up for change.
In the video below, Deondra talks about the challenges survivors face, and how she and her sister have used their voices and their incredible talent to stand up for victims of child sexual abuse.
“We all want the same things,” she says. “The opportunity to heal when we’re ready, to be able to be patient with ourselves, and not feel like our healing is on a time table depending on what the laws are.”
We hope you’ll join us for DOVE Center’s Annual Gala on March 18th, where we’ll personally hear Desirae and Deondra perform and tell their inspiring story. We’ll also come away with a greater understanding of how we can help survivors of abuse and speak up for change in our own lives. Seats are limited and selling out fast! Click here for more information and to purchase your tickets online.