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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
OJ trial sparked abuse campaign
Nicole Simpson
Nicole Simpson's diary detailed her abuse
Denise Brown, sister of the murdered wife of OJ Simpson, has told the BBC of her campaign to bring the issue of domestic violence to the attention of the American public.

Although Simpson was acquitted following his murder trial, an important piece of evidence in court was that he was shown to have been violent towards his wife Nicole.

This aspect of the trial brought the issue of domestic violence to the fore in America - and Ms Brown said she had been campaigning to keep it there ever since.

"It was the dirty little secret that nobody wanted to talk about," Ms Brown told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"Here in the United States, people have been working and fighting against domestic violence for probably 20 or 30 years.

"Really, it was a struggle - one step forward, 10 steps back."


But Ms Brown said the trial had changed that, and had subsequently had an important impact on US law.

Denise Brown
It's the fear of not wanting to leave the situation because that's what they're comfortable with and that's all they understand
Denise Brown
"When people realised it wasn't just happening to poor women, it had a huge impact on legislation," she said.

Ms Brown added that she had been very close to her sister, but nevertheless had been unaware that she had "lived with 17 years of abuse".

"That's why they call it a dirty little secret - victims of violence are usually too ashamed to talk about that violence," she said.

"It's usually seven or eight times before one leaves a situation like that.

"It's the embarrassment, the shame, the unknown - it's the fear of not wanting to leave the situation because that's what they're comfortable with and that's all they understand."

She added that blackmail was also used by abusive husbands to prevent their wives from leaving - as had been the case with her sister.

"In her diaries were threats: 'If you leave me, I'm going to kill your family,' 'If you leave me, I'm going to kill your children.'

"This is so typical in the cycle of domestic violence. When it comes to this issue, there are a lot of threats."

Ms Brown said she had once found a picture of Nicole with a black eye, but she had told her that it was make-up from a scene in a film.

"She never actually came out and said: 'He's beating me.'"

But she added that often it was not the physical abuse that was most damaging.

"There is a lot of verbal, emotional and psychological abuse involved, sexual abuse, and physical abuse.

"When it comes to the physical abuse they always say: 'Well the bruises go away.' It's the verbal, emotional and psychological that stays with you - that fear is always hanging over your head."

'God's plan'

Ms Brown stressed that she believed her sister's death was meant to happen - precisely because it raised awareness and helped others who were victims of abuse.

"I think God has a plan for everybody," she said.

"The issue of domestic violence was something people really did not want to talk about - they still don't really want to talk about it - but it's something that's forced upon them because I won't be quiet," she stated.

US police chase OJ Simpson through southern California
The Simpson case was one of the most famous in US legal history
"I think Nicole's life is what it is. She is the person now who people remember, people look up to.

"People call me all the time, they say: 'It's because of your sister I got out of an abusive relationship.'

"If anything, I feel that's OK - as long as we can save somebody. If it took Nicole's life to do that, I will always have her remembered for the rest of my life.

"Hopefully her children will continue her legacy, and she'll be remembered forever."

But despite her nine-year campaign, Ms Brown conceded that much needed to still be done, with the attitude in the US remaining one of turning a blind eye.

"We have a commercial [in the US] where there's two people lying in bed and they hear yelling and screaming upstairs. They get into bed and turn off their lights because they don't want to get involved," she said.

"This is the attitude that I'm trying to change."

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