SAFE in the NEWS
Karen D. Brown - Shining a light on domestic violence
By Wally Bunker © Culpeper Times
October 1, 2015
Photo by Wally Bunker.
While painful, interim S.A.F.E. director Karen Brown, shares her story of abuse. Now happily married, Brown hopes that her past experiences will help those coming through the doors at the facility in Culpeper.
Karen D. Brown doesn’t wear lipstick any longer. Something as seemingly innocuous as lipstick reminds her of a painful point in her life. Her abusive and controlling ex-husband liked for her to put on heavy lipstick.
Brown, who serves as the interim executive director of Services to Abused Families, Inc. (S.A.F.E), is no stranger to the trauma of domestic and sexual violence. She has experienced firsthand the many forms of domestic violence beginning as a small child.
At the age of six, her mother was murdered in Connecticut by a jealous woman with whom her father was having an affair. She didn’t immediately know the facts of her mother’s murder, but while at the library one day the then 22-year-old began searching microfilm newspaper articles. She learned the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death.
“It messed up the life of four children and my father,” said Brown about the loss of her mother.
As a pre-teen, she was sexually abused by two family members. Her 24-year-old brother committed suicide. Finally, during her marriage, she became the victim of physical and emotional abuse for several years. She plans to write a book one day.
A hushed lullaby droned in the background as Faith Gil spoke, through tears, about a girlhood spent watching her father beat up her mother.
She shared her personal story of surviving exposure to domestic violence, and the lasting impacts of living through it, from her pink office at the back of Lollipop Station, the toy store she owns in downtown Culpeper, children's laughter occasionally ringing out in the background.
A purveyor of dolls, action figures, wind-up machines, miniature trucks and rainbow swirl lollipops, Gil is known for her bubbly personality and love of children, though her own childhood often was dark and difficult.
"My mom and dad had a turbulent relationship," said the Culpeper native who grew up near the hospital. "It was not uncommon that it would escalate to the point of a physical assault. There was one particular time in which we had to flee our house, my mom and I, and seek refuge."
They sought refuge from Services to Abused Families, the local organization that started in 1980 as the Women's Abuse Shelter.