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Denise Brown Speaks Out on Abuse

October 07, 1995|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Just days after the acquittal of the man she believes killed her sister, Denise Brown has resumed what she has pledged will be her life's work: speaking out against domestic violence.

Brown's first public appearance was a tour Thursday night of the San Diego Center for Children, a nonprofit residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed and abused children. Later, she served as keynote speaker at a fund-raising dinner for the center, which treats 82 children ages 5 to 13.

She told the banquet audience that she was shocked after Nicole Simpson's death when she read her sister's diary descriptions of the abuse she suffered during her sometimes stormy marriage with O.J. Simpson. This has compelled her, she said, to crisscross the country to warn of the destructive effect of domestic abuse on marriages and children.

"If I wasn't out here speaking, I think I'd be crazy right now," she said. "I think I had to find something so that Nicole didn't die in vain."

During Simpson's trial, Brown testified for the prosecution, and she has proclaimed her belief that the football great killed her sister.

At the children's center, Brown played a game called "Hands Are Not for Hitting" and asked the students to take a pledge: "My hands will not commit violence."

Despite the shock of this week's quick verdict, the 37-year-old former model was in a buoyant mood and appeared to enjoy the verbal back-and-forth with the children as they followed her instructions to draw an outline of a handprint.

"Are you a movie star?" asked one child.

"Nope."

"Are you someone famous?" asked another.

"No, I'm just Denise."

"Have you been on TV?" asked a third.

"Not because I want to be, sweetheart."

When one student tried to rearrange the rules of the game, Brown asked playfully, "Who's making up the rules here?"

Dogged by reporters and cameras during the visit, Brown declined to comment on Simpson's acquittal. Brown, who lives in Dana Point, agreed six months ago to come to the center because of its focus on helping children overcome violence within their families and helping them avoid becoming violent themselves.

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Brown's stop in San Diego was arranged through the Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation, formed by the Brown family to support the work of groups and individuals dedicated to eradicating abuse and violence. The acquittal of Simpson has seemed to energize the foundation.

On Thursday night, about 100 volunteers met at the South Shores Church in Dana Point to discuss strategy for the center's work. Among the ideas floated was organizing a boycott against any cable television network that participates in a much-rumored pay-per-view interview with Simpson.

Nicole Simpson and Denise Brown, by all accounts, enjoyed a close relationship. After Nicole's murder, her parents assumed guardianship of Sydney and Justin, Nicole and O.J. Simpson's two children. Brown, the single mother of a young son, has assisted in raising and sheltering 9-year-old Sydney and 7-year-old Justin.

At the banquet, Brown said that she had given the anti-violence pledge to Sydney and Justin. She said that Justin drew a heart inside his handprint and that a psychiatrist, asked for an explanation, told her: "You have a little boy there with a broken heart."

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