denise_brownFORT PIERCE - Denise Brown, the former sister-in-law of O.J. Simpson, said last week she never saw any signs that her sister, Nicole Simpson, was being abused.

Only after her murder in 1994 and reading her diaries did the picture of abuse become apparent, Ms. Brown said at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute.

In the 16 years after the murders of Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, Ms. Brown has campaigned to increase awareness of domestic abuse and find solutions.

Last week, she spoke at a meeting organized by Safe Space, which provides a shelter for domestic abuse victims, toured the shelter and visited Lawnwood and St. Lucie medical centers.

While visiting the trauma center and intensive care unit at Lawnwood, Ms. Brown talked with hospital employees about the availability of assistance for victims of abuse.

Hospital employees told Ms. Brown they don't automatically accept when a patient says their injuries weren't the result of domestic violence, if the situation shows otherwise.

Danny Jazarevic, head of the hospital's trauma center, said the center sees patients who come in because of shootings and stabbings as a result of domestic situations.

In Nicole Simpson's case, she had visited an emergency room, but told doctors her injuries were the result of falling off a bicycle.

On the one hand, Ms. Brown said, her sister led a very outgoing life. The abuse she was suffering "was her dirty secret," she said.

All the while, Ms. Brown said, despite being close to her sister, she was unaware of any problem.

But in reading her diaries, it appeared the abuse followed a typical pattern where the abuser abuses the spouse, then makes up and then abuses again, she said.

"Unless you realize there's a cycle, you don't realize there's domestic violence," she said.

O.J. Simpson was charged with the murders of his former wife and Mr. Goldman, but was acquitted. A judgment against him for their wrongful deaths was awarded by a jury in a civil trial. He is currently serving a prison sentence for robbery and kidnapping, among other felonies.

Ms. Brown declined to talk about Mr. Simpson's current incarceration.

Jill Borowicz, chief executive officer of Space Space, said she hoped Ms. Brown's visit would increase awareness of domestic violence and that there is a place for victims to go to get away from the abuser.

On March 18, the day Ms. Brown visited, 42 people were at the shelter, including 22 children, Ms. Borowicz said.

While seeking to make people more aware that such shelters exist, Ms. Brown said, she often thinks about her sister.

"She gives me the strength to do what I'm doing," Ms Brown said.

One hospital employee expressed sympathy to Ms. Brown for the loss of her sister, but added: "You have turned something negative into something positive."

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