The famously conservative Duggars seemed to be models of wholesome family life, but son Josh was hiding a dark past: He allegedly molested five young girls as a teen. Subscribe now for an inside look at the Duggars’ dark family secrets, only in PEOPLE.
In the wake of allegations that Josh Duggar molested five underage girls, Desirae and Deondra Brown are speaking out about their own experience surviving abuse. The two sisters, part of the classical piano ensemble The Five Browns, came forward in 2011 with the shocking news that they had been sexually abused by their father.
“I remember watching the show and mentioning to friends and family that I feel something is off and something will come out,” Desirae says. She says some of the warning signs included controlling parents, very submissive children and an isolated environment.
“When you are so isolated there are very few adults you can confide in,” says Desirae, who was homeschooled along with her siblings. “I also recognized that striving for perfection. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Deondra, 35, offers the victims this advice: “Hold your heads high, you didn’t do anything wrong.”
Today, the Brown sisters, who are still touring with their band, which also includes their two younger brothers and sister Melody, are using their fame to help victims of abuse.
They have started the organization The Foundation For Survivors of Abuse and are currently working with Senator Harry Reid drafting a bill that would help states change their statute of limitations laws, encouraging states to remove the statues entirely, so victims can prosecute abusers when they are ready.
Desirae and Deondra did not come forward with their own abuse until 15 years after it happened and were only able to prosecute their father, Keith Brown, who abused them and Melody, because Utah did not have a statue of limitations. Their father is now serving 10 years to life in prison.
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The two women, who are now both mothers, say making their decision to speak publicly about their abuse stems from wanting to help future generations.
“Hands down the worst day of my life was when I found out my sisters were abused,” Deondra says. “I thought if I can’t do this for myself, I want to do it for my sisters and for others going through it.”