Deondra Brown and her siblings went to police in 2011 and provided evidence their father had sexually assaulted them for years. The Julliard-trained pianists, known as The 5 Browns, grew up in Utah County and gained critical acclaim for their musical artistry before revealing a secret they had kept for too long — even among themselves.
In a documentary released last year, “The 5 Browns: Digging Through the Darkness,” the lives of the three sisters and their two brothers are chronicled in a way that seems typical for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a religious upbringing, an emphasis on cultivating their talents and a homeschooling schedule that allowed more time to practice the piano.
But there was a dark side. During their father’s criminal trial, evidence detailed “abuses that happened over a span of at least eight years, hundreds of times for at least one of the daughters, and across state lines,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “The abuse would last some time for one daughter, and as that daughter got older, Brown would shift his focus to younger daughters.”
Now their father, Keith Brown, is in prison, and Deondra Brown is coming to BYU to share her story of survival and the journey she and her siblings have traveled. Her presentation is just one of several events taking place April 1-5 in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness month. They include:
Monday, April 1: “Chalk the Walk” from 11 a.m to 2 p.m in Brigham Square.
Tuesday, April 2: “From Victim to Survivor: Working Through Abuse to a Place of Healing,” featuring keynote speaker Deondra Brown of The 5 Browns, at 7 p.m. in HBLL 3714. Free pizza while supplies last.
Wednesday, April 3: “May I Have Ice Cream?” free ice cream and consent gallery at 12 p.m. in WSC 3211.
Thursday, April 4: “Responding to Sexual Assault,” a seminar for faculty and staff, at 11 a.m. in the Varsity Theater.
Friday, April 5: “Strike Out Sexual Assault,” from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m at the WSC Bowling Alley with free bowling.
The Title IX office and Women’s Services and Resources are co-sponsoring the week of activities, as the offices work together to open discussions about sexual assault and misconduct at BYU.
“(Title IX) actually takes the lead on the events and the campaign, as we are the office on campus assigned to oversee all sexual misconduct issues, so we are very involved,” said Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Training and Education Jared Rasband. “We are grateful to Women’s Services for their willingness to co-sponsor the campaign, and we work with them closely in planning and hosting events throughout the week.”
The Title IX office connects students to counseling or to Dr. Lisa Leavitt, BYU’s sexual assault survivor advocate. The office also aids in writing letters to professors, helping with petitions and financial aid.
“If something is reported to our office, we can take the informational report, do an informal resolution, or conduct a formal investigation. What steps we take is largely determined by the victim and what they would like us to do,” Rasband said.
Rasband said the office occasionally needs to take action even if the victim doesn’t want to participate, but such incidents are rare. He said that the goal of the Title IX office is to help those impacted by sexual misconduct, and whatever that looks like for the individual is what the office will do.
“An informal resolution is where we talk to both parties involved — separately, they never have to be in the same room — and address the behavior so it doesn’t happen again,” Rasband said. “A formal investigation is where we speak with both parties, allow them the opportunity to respond to each other’s statements and provide evidence, interview witnesses, etc., the conclusion of which is a determination on whether or not policy was violated and whether or not discipline needs to occur.”
Rasband said, unfortunately, sexual assault and misconduct do happen at BYU just like anywhere else. He stressed the importance of being willing to have conversations on sexual assault, consent and healthy relationships.
“Next week’s activities are our campus’ way of participating in the broader, national conversation. We’ve been doing this for a few years now here at BYU, and each year it grows and hopefully becomes more effective,” Rasband said. “The more we can bring these issues to the forefront of our campus community, through awareness campaigns like next week, the more we’ll be able to make a difference.”
A representative of Women’s Services and Resources said in an email the office hopes the campus community will attend these events with an open mind and an empathetic heart.
“This is an opportunity to open a dialogue with our community,” the statement said.