'I am a survivor': Conference focuses on helping child abuse victims

Nov 14 2012 - 6:18pm

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Desirae Brown (left) and Deondra Brown presented their story as part of the Prevent Child Abuse Utah Joining Forces Conference Wednesday at the Davis Conference Center in Layton. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Desirae Brown (left) and Deondra Brown presented their story as part of the Prevent Child Abuse Utah Joining Forces Conference Wednesday at the Davis Conference Center in Layton. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

LAYTON -- Sisters Desirae and Deondra Brown of The 5 Browns are determined to not allow the man who sexually abused them as children to take any more from them.

To a crowd of 300 people, the two women spoke as the concluding speakers at the 25th annual Prevent Child Abuse Utah Joining Forces Conference at Davis Conference Center in Layton. The conference took place Monday through Wednesday.

The Browns are the co-founders of the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse. Both women were sexually abused before the age of 14 by their father, Keith Brown, who is now serving sentences at Utah State Prison.

"I am a survivor, and I will hold my head up high," said Deondra Brown, 32.

It was her sister, Desirae, 33, who asked her sister several years ago if their father had sexually abused her also. They learned that their youngest sister had also been sexually abused. It took some time, but they decided they needed to go to law enforcement.

Utah is one of the few states that had changed the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse, so they were able to have their father prosecuted.

It usually takes 14 to 20 years before a victim of child sex abuse is ready to come forward, Deondra said.

The two women are currently working with others to have the federal laws concerning child sex abuse changed, so victims who come forward as adults can have their cases prosecuted. Changing the laws to help victims was the theme of the conference Wednesday.

A panel of four people, who each played a role in prosecuting Ryan and Angela Andrews for the murder of 10-year-old Shelby Andrews, were the keynote speakers.

The Syracuse girl's battered and bruised body was found on the living room floor of her home at 11:18 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2006, by paramedics and police.

An older stepbrother had called 911, while Shelby's father, Ryan Andrews, and stepmother, Angela Andrews, performed CPR.

Police later learned the young girl had been forced to stand inside a linen closet with the door shut after being severely beaten.

Shelby "was abused. She was tortured and eventually she passed away," said Syracuse Police Detective Heath Rogers.

Rogers was one of the policemen called to the crime scene.

He said one of the first things he noticed was "there was not a whole lot of emotion going on."

He ended up interviewing Ryan Andrews and Angela Andrews separately. Both are now serving life sentences in Utah State Prison.

Angela Andrews blamed Shelby for her death, Rogers said.

"She thinks she is the victim," Rogers said. "Angela is a monster. Don't let her fool you."

The community and law enforcement were disappointed they could not charge the Andrews with aggravated murder, because child abuse at that time was not considered an aggravating factor in murder, said Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

Since then, Rawlings; Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton; Syracuse Police Department; the Attorney General's Office; and the Division of Child and Family Services worked to change the law, which is now known as "Shelby's Law."

Rawlings said that because of the changes in the law, his office now seeks life without parole or the death penalty for those who kill children while abusing them.

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