If someone suspects a person may be a victim of sexual abuse or notices changes in their behavior, the sisters told educators, therapists, law enforcement and members of the Department of Child and Family Services who attended to follow their intuition and talk directly to the victim.
The women said after they came forward about the abuse, acquaintances told them they suspected something was wrong between the daughters and their father, but had never said a word. Desirae Brown quoted Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, saying, "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
The typical sex offender isn't some monster in a dark alley, the daughters realized. "They are so non-assuming and so charming," Desirae Brown said, adding that the"white collar crime" allows a seemingly "clean-cut, all-American guy" access to victims again and again.
Deondra Brown said the abuse may leave victims with flashbacks, nightmares, trust issues and affects their physical and mental health. She likened the abuse to a cancer brewing underneath the surface that, if not addressed, "will fester and waste away the wonderful things in our life."
"We may appear to be normal functioning adults, but really we are trying to put our lives back together, one day at a time," Deondra Brown told the crowd as she emotionally drew her hand to her heart.
The women said one in four girls and one in five boys are sexually abused and out of those 80 percent are abused by a family member. Desirae Brown said because the majority of cases involve family you have one of the hardest decisions to make. It can take victims up to 20 years to come forward, if at all.
At that time, friends of the family also chose sides, and some extended family members didn't support her. But she said she never wanted to regret not doing the right thing to protect others, despite the rumors that would rage, or how it might change her reputation or the career she had worked her life to build.
Deondra Brown said "sometimes you have to be your own hero," have courage and not let someone else steal your life.
"His horrible acts against an innocent child should not define me. I define me," she said as her voice cracked and she began to wipe the tears. "I am a survivor and I will hold my head high."
Desirae Brown offered steps to recovery involving hope, finding justice, finding strength to prosecute and healing. The two also said counseling was key to filtering what was right and true.