SALT LAKE CITY ( News4Utah) – Deondra Brown says she considers child sex abuse equal to murder – the murder of a child’s soul.
A decade after she and her two sisters realized they had all been sexually abused by their father, the members of the award-winning piano group The 5 Browns are letting audiences in on their pain and healing.
In 2007, when they were on tour in Japan, Desirae and Deondra Brown both discovered they had been abused by their father. They asked their sister, Melody, if she had also been abused. The answer was “yes.” Keith Brown is now serving ten years to life for the crimes, and the five siblings – who still perform together – have cut off contact with their mother, Lisa, who they say still defends their father.
Ben Niles, an Atlanta-based documentary filmmaker, helmed the documentary “Digging Through the Darkness,” which premiered in Salt Lake City Wednesday night to a standing ovation. The premiere was followed by a Q & A session. It was supposed to be twenty minutes. It lasted more than an hour, with some people coming out about their own child sexual abuse.
The film’s trailer shows the group rehearsing and clips from their performances. It also features interviews with the siblings as they recount the dark times they endured. The film shows home video footage of the children in their early years – the same time the abuse was taking place.
Deondra Brown said it’s sometimes hard to see those home video clips.
“To see those innocent little faces is difficult sometimes,” said Deondra, who says the family is working to move forward and “detach” from what happened to them. “Now that I’m a mom myself, I look at myself as a child and think ‘Oh, I wish I could tell her this…I wish I could protect her…'”
“We saw the full cut [of the film] a while ago and had a chance to sit with it,” she said. “But it’s a whole different experience watching it in front of your family, your friends and your hometown crowd,” Deondra added, talking about the film’s premiere.
“There were a lot of emotions,” she said.
Brown said she and her four siblings did not want to sugar coat their present lives. Being a survivor of abuse is hard and it stays hard long after the dust has settled.
Niles said he is grateful for the authenticity the Browns showed during filming.
“As a documentary filmmaker, if you don’t have proper access, then you’re not gonna get to the heart of the story,” said Niles. “They made a pact with each other that ‘If we are gonna do this, we are gonna do it right,” he said.
Niles said at the film’s premiere in Salt Lake City Wednesday, audience members opened up about their own sexual abuse experiences.
“Sexual abuse is the murder of a soul,” said Brown, who has been fighting to end the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases in Utah. The Utah Supreme Court is currently weighing whether the current statute allows decades-old abuse cases to be prosecuted.
The 5 Browns will perform in Layton this Saturday, June 9.
“The 5 Browns: Digging Through the Darkness” will screen Thursday, June 7 at the Museum of Fine Art in Salt Lake City at 7 p.m. Admission is free.