As a concert pianist, I have the opportunity to perform music I love for people all over the world. It is a dream. It is a joy beyond words. But don’t let my smile fool you. My journey has not been without great obstacles, some of which I will face the rest of my life.
I would never have fathomed that my father could sexually abuse me. Nothing can prepare you for that breach of trust and the type of sorrow and loss that occurs. When I came forward well into adulthood, I could never have thought I would be forced to maneuver the aftermath without the support of my mother. That pain was almost unbearable.
My father was prosecuted over twenty years after the abuse ended: after I moved out of the house and was able to process it as an adult. I cannot imagine going through a case as a child. My heart aches for these little soldiers who deserve so much more. I had the support of a husband who stood by me through it all, and I still came out scarred.
Sexual abuse is one of the most despicable offenses the world has to offer. As each year passes, science realizes more profoundly the effects of child abuse on its victims. When you look deeply in to the eyes of an abused child, the pain and torment are haunting. As professionals entrusted with helping these victims, you know the uphill battle ahead of them. You see the tears and countless pressures; you know the unrelenting nightmares that are there. You witness how this evil rips apart families and changes the course of lives forever. You know it all too well.
But what you may not realize is that the impact you have on these children is special and unique. They will never forget your kindness and support. They will never forget that reassuring smile. You were there during the worst period of their lives and they are somehow stronger because you understood the pain and cared.
Abuse acts as a wildfire that quickly spreads and threatens everything that you are and can be. It can feel like there is nowhere to turn as the blaze consumes all in its path. But amidst the wreckage, life can grow again. It is vibrant and fresh and tangible. It is full of beauty and honesty and peace. The scars of the past will always be there, but they are intertwined with the optimism and sweetness that new life brings. In fact, this combination of tragedy with the freshness of the new can offer the greatest perspective of all.
Not a day goes by that I do not wish I could go back and protect that trusting little girl I once was. To tell her that she has a voice and there are people who will listen. That she is powerful and strong and valued. I wish I could scoop her up and save her from the horrors that surround her.
But instead, I will wrap my little daughter in my arms every day and tell her how much I love her. My husband and I will stand by her as her protectors and her #1 fans. We will provide her with the safe and loving home I did not have. I cannot change the past, but through her eyes, I am determined to do my part to change the future.
Through the work you do, you are changing lives. You are changing futures. You will never be forgotten by the children you helped and the communities you served. What a powerful legacy.
Deondra Brown is a concert pianist, performing with her four brothers and sisters as The 5 Browns. All five were classically trained at New York's famed Juilliard School and have performed individually and collaboratively with renowned orchestras and in concert halls around the world, debuting at Carnegie Hall in the 2013-14 season. Deondra is co-founder and president of the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse (FSA). FSA’s mission is to use the experiences of victims as a tool to educate the public and legislators of the need to change laws regarding statute of limitations for crimes of sexual abuse.