Educating people about the cycle of violence, “the power and control of one human being over another,” was the focus of Denise Brown, sister of the late Nicole Brown Simpson, during her visit to Fresno on Thursday.
“The verbal, the emotional, the psychological abuse, the put-downs, the chipping away at someone’s self-esteem,” Brown said. “And then there’s the honeymoon phase of, ‘Oh baby, it’s never going to happen again.’ … If they hit you once, they’ll hit you again, and if they ever threaten to kill you, eventually one day they will.”
Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were stabbed to death in 1994. Nicole’s ex-husband, O.J. Simpson, was tried for their slayings and acquitted.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp remembers where she was when that verdict came in.
“It was a hard day for everybody who knew the truth,” Smittcamp said as she moderated a discussion with Brown, keynote speaker of the Marjaree Mason Center’s 35th Annual Top 10 Professional Women and Leading Business Awards at the Fresno Convention Center.
The luncheon, attended by approximately 1,500 people, paid “tribute to women who have served as role models and given back to their communities, all while making strides in their professions.” It was also a fundraiser for the Marjaree Mason Center, which provides support and shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
Brown got emotional during the event although she’s a seasoned speaker who has been raising awareness about domestic violence since her sister’s death.
Brown shared stories of witnessing her sister experience “verbal and psychological abuse” by O.J. Simpson. She said he brainwashed and manipulated her sister “into thinking that it was her fault that he started yelling at her.”
“The cycle of domestic violence is something that I always love to talk about because it’s so important to realize that if you’re being put down by somebody, it’s wrong,” Brown said. “When you are emotionally being attacked by somebody, it’s wrong.”
Brown’s work includes lobbying on behalf of the Violence Against Women Act and helping increase its funding.
Smittcamp called Brown a “hero” to law enforcement and everyone working to combat domestic violence.
“You have really no clue how much of an impact you have had on our ability to do our jobs and help save some of these women,” said Smittcamp, a Marjaree Mason Center board member and former Top 10 Professional Women Award recipient.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, also a board member for the center and former Top 10 award recipient, called domestic violence one of the most pervasive issues in the Central Valley.
Mims said law enforcement officers typically respond to seven or more domestic violence calls to the same residence until a survivor finds the strength to seek help.
“Until then,” Mims said, “the violence typically gets worse.”
Brown urged people to believe survivors’ stories and be there to help them.
“It’s so hard for people to come forward with domestic violence, with sexual assault, with any of these kind of things, to actually come forward when they do,” Brown told reporters ahead of her talk. “And for people not to believe them, it’s a slap in the face I think for women.”
How to help
A $25 donation can be made to the Marjaree Mason Center by texting 20222 with the message “MMC25.” Donations can also be made online at mmcenter.org, or by mail to 1600 M St., Fresno, CA 93721.
The center has a 24-hour crisis hotline: 559-233-HELP (4357).
2018 Top 10 Professional Women and Leading Business Awards recipients
Teri Amerine, Saint Agnes Medical Center’s vice president of foundation and volunteer services
Mary Castro, Fresno State’s first lady and campus volunteer; Fresno County Housing Authority commissioner
Carole Goldsmith, Fresno City College president
Jody Hironaka-Juteau, Fresno State’s College of Health and Human Services dean
Jody Hudson, Catholic Charities director of operations
Gena Lew Gong, Central California Asian Pacific Women president
Laneesha Senegal, Helping Others Pursue Excellence (HOPE) executive director
Davinder K. Sidhu, Selma Unified School District assistant superintendent
TheeAnna Stevens, Fresno Acura dealer operator/owner
Dawan Utecht, Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health director; Fresno County public guardian
Ruiz Food Products, Inc., leading business represented by Kim Ruiz Beck and Rachel P. Cullen