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Denise Brown to Address Domestic Violence During Penn State Appearance

by and on October 05, 2014 3:45 PM

Denise Brown is on a mission.

When her sister Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered 20 years ago, Brown made it her life's work to raise awareness about domestic violence.

During the course of the trial against Nicole's ex-husband — former NFL star and actor O.J. Simpson — Brown testified against her former brother-in-law. She also began the Nicole Brown Foundation to bring attention to the epidemic of domestic violence.

In one of the most famous trials in U.S. history, Simpson was acquitted of murder.

Brown will speak at 6:30 p.m. at Penn State's Heritage Hall in the HUB on Monday, Oct. 6.

Her talk will touch on a myriad of topics — from bullying to domestic violence and everything in between.

"I'm going to tell some personal stories," Brown says, previewing her talk. "Twenty years ago, there weren't laws like there are today. There wasn't the awareness that there is today. Domestic violence was a part of my sister's life and we knew nothing about it. It was the dirty little secret she never talked about, never told us about."

Brown is hoping to pass on some life lessons that she learned following the murder of her sister.

"There are ways to see it. There are things you can do about it. Educate yourself and learn about domestic violence. I talk about the cycle of domestic violence all the time. I think that's real important."

In recent months, domestic violence has again come to the forefront. In the United States, a video of former Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice surfaced, prompting outrage. He was subsequently released from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL. In South Africa, Oscar Pistorius — a Paralympic gold-medalist sprinter — shot and killed his supermodel girlfriend. He was found not guilty of pre-meditated murder, but was convicted of culpable homicide.

The stories are all too familiar for Brown.

"I wouldn't say that it opened up wounds. It was 20 years ago that my sister was murdered. Would I rather have Nicole back than talk about this stuff? Absolutely. I think about that every single day of my life. I see these celebrities, the football players, the sports figures ... as a society we look up to these people and they should be role models for us," Brown says.

Brown is glad the NFL is finally addressing the issue of domestic violence.

"I think where the NFL is going right now with zero tolerance has opened up some eyes. They want to confront the issue of domestic violence, which is a great thing. I think they should have done it 20 years ago," Brown says matter-of-factly.

Brown testified against Simpson at the famous trial. Simpson was a larger-than-life figure. After his NFL career ended, he became a football broadcaster and actor, appearing in several films, including the popular "Naked Gun" series.

As Brown looks back to 20-plus years ago, she recalled Simpson's popularity.

"We had a sports figure, a loved person in our society. We had him up on a pedestal. What we have to remember as individuals is we don't know these people. We only know that they can score touchdowns, that they can shoot baskets, that they are great singers. They are people, just like you and me. They have the same tendencies as you and me. To put them up on pedestal, worship the ground that they walk on and think they aren't capable of doing something like this is just ludicrous," Brown says.

There have been a rash of sexual assaults at Penn State since the fall semester began. According to Brown, the culture has to change on college campuses.

"I think what has to happen on college campuses is that the university has to enforce laws and have zero tolerance. That should be mandatory. I don't think they should have anger management programs, they should have batterer treatment programs. It's not anger management. Not every angry person beats someone up. If it's sexual assault, get rid of them. They don't deserve to be at that school. There have to be harsher punishments. Until they do, nothing is going to change," Brown says.

According to Brown, her talk won't be heavy on statistics. The statistics are out there and can be easily accessed. Instead, she wants to educate and get people thinking. It will be heavy on emotion, she says.

"It takes everybody, it really does," she adds. "Twenty years later, my mission, my goal is still the same. We're still on track."

Brown's talk is sponsored by the Center for Women Students.


What: Denise Brown, founder of the Nicole Brown Foundation

Where: Heritage Hall, Penn State's HUB

When: 6:30 p.m., Oct. 6

Cost: Admission is free

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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Chris Morelli is the managing editor of The Centre County Gazette.
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