TIME domestic violence

Nicole Brown’s Sister: Pistorius Is Another O.J.

Oscar Pistorius listens to the verdict in his murder trial in the High Court in Pretoria on September 12, 2014.
Oscar Pistorius listens to the verdict in his murder trial in the High Court in Pretoria on September 12, 2014. Siphiwe Sibeko—AFP/Getty Images

Denise Brown runs the Nicole Brown Foundation in honor of her sister, who was murdered in 1994.

Until we have zero tolerance for domestic violence, especially from male athletes, we will see this horror played out again and again

It saddens me that 20 years after my sister Nicole’s murder, we are still seeing the same crimes, just with different names, over and over again.

The Ray Rice case reflects our misunderstanding of what domestic violence is, and the Oscar Pistorius case reminds me so much of what happened to Nicole, with the victim defending her partner and the batterer blaming the victim.

What is most chilling to me about what I have seen in the coverage of Rice is that he has not atoned for his actions; he seems more concerned with how he is now viewed. And it’s Janay Palmer who is apologizing for her part in being knocked out cold. This is a dangerous dynamic.

My sister was once overheard saying, “He’s going to kill me and get away with it.” And it was alleged that O.J. Simpson was once overheard screaming at my sister’s grave, blaming her for what she did to him and his life.

Until all of us have zero tolerance for domestic violence, especially from superstar male athletes—who are protected and coddled rather than held up to a higher standard of being—we will see this horror played out again and again.

I am heartened that the public has stepped up and pressured the NFL to do better. It is a shame that when the NFL was originally presented with a police report stating “bodily injury … striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious,” it suspended Rice for only two games. I pray the league will finally take its role in domestic violence among its players more seriously.

NFL players are the gladiators of our time; they are essentially trained killing machines. Thus they can be as dangerous as loaded guns. I encourage the NFL to educate its executives and players on the dynamics of domestic violence. Perhaps someday they will learn that doing the right thing is the best thing for their bottom line.

Domestic violence is about one human being needing to control another. It’s not about love. What I have learned is that, without comprehensive education for both the perpetrator and the victim, if such violence happens once, it will happen again, and it can escalate until the victim gets killed. Both individuals need counseling and education to understand the dynamics. The victim needs to understand that nothing she has said or done warrants being assaulted or verbally abused. The perpetrator needs to understand that there is no justification—ever, ever, ever—for assaulting his partner physically or emotionally.

Palmer speaks like many women I have come in contact with over the past 20 years through my domestic-violence work. She defends her husband, she blames herself, and she tells everyone to stay out of their personal business. Well, it is our business when it comes to trying to save someone’s life and educate that person about the cycle of violence.

We all need to be courageous enough to step up when we see someone being bullied or abused. It will help save not only the lives of our daughters, sisters, mothers and friends but also our sons, brothers and fathers.

Brown runs the Nicole Brown Foundation in honor of her sister, who was murdered in 1994.

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TIME

Nicole Brown Simpson’s Sister: ‘My Heart Still Aches’

Denise Brown, right, and her sister Nicole. Courtesy of Denise Brown

20 years after the arrest, Denise Brown remembers her sister's life and love

Twenty years ago, my sister Nicole was taken from us. Not a day or a moment goes by that our great big boisterous family doesn’t miss her. We have always been a family that laughed so easily and even though we still do, nothing has ever been the same. Time hasn’t made it better—if anything, I miss her more. My heart still aches as if it were the first moment I knew what happened.

For me her birthdate is more important than her death date. Since the day she was born, I was protective of her, and even at age two, I kept the family amused because I stood guard over her baby carriage, not letting anyone get too close to her. My mother often reminded me that we were more like twins than sisters.

With four girls in our family, there was and is always a birthday celebration around the corner. Mama and Daddy always made a big deal about our birthdays. So, if I can have one wish, it would be for everyone not to dwell on her murder, or on the trial-of-the-century, but on her life and on how full of love, laughter, and grace her life was. How thoughtful she was as a sister and friend, how big and generous her heart was. Most of all, to the core of her being, how much she loved her daughter, Sydney, and son, Justin.

The tragedy of my sister’s murder brought a great big spotlight on domestic violence. It was something that my family and I knew nothing about. My education was born of such sorrow and loss, but it gave me the courage to work toward making sure that it didn’t happen to another family.

To this day, so many people continue to give me praise about the work I’ve done since Nicole’s murder. The truth of it all was that I couldn’t stand how the “Dream Team” was portraying Nicole, and at the same time, I also couldn’t stomach the thought of my sister being a victim. I wanted and still want people to really see my sister as a strong, vibrant woman.

It has been an honor and privilege to help raise funds for domestic violence shelters in this country and aroundthe world, change laws and help pass the Violence Against Women Act. All I can truly say is, I did this to honor my sister’s life. I didn’t want her life to be defined by the headlines that others had created.

Nicole is the mother of Sydney and Justin. Sydney and Justin were her heart. She was as much a devoted mother as their joyous playmate.

Nicole is the daughter of Lou and Juditha Brown. She was their golden-haired, headstrong, force-of-nature baby. She was their brilliant and inquisitive girl. She had her daddy’s big brown eyes and her mother’s nose.

Nicole is the sister of Denise, Dominique, Tanya and Rolf. She was the one that always made us laugh till we cried. She would stand her ground and make us all so crazy because more often than not, she was right. She was the best cook out of all of us and was the only one that could copy Oma’s spatzle and goulash perfectly.

Nicole was my little sister and I was supposed to always look after her. Look after your family, love them no matter what.

Nicole, I miss you so, I love you.

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