Actual abuse of 5 Browns daughters went far beyond charges

A newly released police report shows the extent of child sexual abuse perpetrated against the three women of the piano group The 5 Browns went far beyond the three counts their father, Keith Brown, went to prison for. 

The report and court documents detail 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. Keith Brown exchanged emails about the abuse with his daughters before they went to police, the report stated.

The abuse would last some time for one daughter, and as that daughter got older, Brown would shift his focus to younger daughters, Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill said last week after speaking with the Brown family.

Yet the egregious crimes may never have fallen into the public eye. Reporters following up on a car accident involving Keith Brown stumbled across charges filed against him just days before. On the way home from a Valentine's Day dinner with his wife, Brown drove his Porsche off the road and plunged 300 feet into a creek in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Police said he had been traveling too fast for the area.

"The position of a case of this magnitude was to have it resolved as quickly and quietly as possible," said Steven Shapiro, defense attorney for Keith Brown. "The intention was to not have this be any sort of a media event."

Sturgill said Brown's prosecution was treated "like any other." He pointed out it's hard enough for a victim of sexual assault to come forward, let alone have others know about it. "If I had my way, it wouldn't be reported on [by the news]," Sturgill said.

But Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said media reports of abuse are advantageous to other victims. She believes the women of The 5 Browns coming forward have made a difference for other victims of a similar crime.

"I was very grateful to those young adults for coming forward," she said. "People say, 'Oh, I see this can happen to anyone.' It doesn't matter what neighborhood they come from or what family they come from. … It helps break down those misconceptions about who perpetrators are and who the victims are."

Being properly informed on the behavior of a suspect and the behavior of a victim "is critical in helping [other] victims to understand and not feel shame," Kindness said.



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Smart's triumph may empower other victims

When Elizabeth Smart emerged from a federal courthouse Friday in Salt Lake City, she celebrated not only her own triumph but also the possibility of justice for all victims.

Eight years after Brian David Mitchell kidnapped her and subjected her to near-daily rapes, a jury found Mitchell guilty. 

"I am so thrilled to stand before the people of America today," said Smart, 23, "and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what's happened to them."

Advocates for survivors of sexual violence say Smart's willingness to confront her offender under the nation's gaze will help empower other victims and dispel the stigma often associated with rape. Other observers say they have been inspired simply by her courage, poise and strength.

"There is such shame associated with sexual violence, and to have it being talked about so openly and publicly is almost a relief to some," said Heather Stringfellow, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City. "[Smart] held [Mitchell] accountable, and that's a very powerful message."

In Utah, 29 percent of women older than 18 have experienced some type of sexual assault, according to a 2007 survey by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. One in nine sexual assault incidents is reported to the police.

Survivors often fear they won't be believed or that their own behavior will be questioned, said Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

"I've been really impressed with [Smart's] candor and her ability to express herself and talk openly about her experiences," Kindness said. "It does give an opportunity for people to see that you can talk about it and that you can talk about it and be supported."


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