Reform is the only thing O.J. Simpson deserves credit for

by Emily Roberts | Jun 13, 2014
Reform is the only thing O.J. Simpson deserves credit for

June 12, 2014
Paige Flink, CEO of The Family Place
The Dallas Morning News

Twenty years after the brutal murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, here’s what we remember: the crime scene, the car chase, the threat of suicide, the glove, the smirk, the acquittal after an eight-month trial. Here’s what we all forget: the young children who witnessed ongoing abuse and then had to live without a mother, the family who lost a sister and a daughter, the parents who lost a son, the thousands of women who feared their own partner would get away with it.

But how did those two deaths change our response to domestic violence? In the aftermath of the acquittal, we saw an outpouring of public outrage, a recognition that intimate partner violence can happen to anyone, the realization that leaving an abusive relationship can be more dangerous than staying and that laws were needed to make sure domestic violence is taken seriously the first time it happens.

As advocates, we heard from women who quoted their partners as saying things such as, “I am going to O.J. you,” “You are going to wind up just like Nicole,” and “I can murder you and get away with it.” The possibilities were frightening and the fear was justified. But thankfully, because of increased protection and improved prosecution provided by new laws, victims have legal remedies today that did not exist before the tragic events of June 12, 1994.

About two months after the murders — and four years of debate, including testimony by Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister — Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. Almost every state in the nation also passed laws to help prevent this kind of outrageous behavior.

From New Jersey to Mississippi, and of course in California, where the Simpson and Goldman killings occurred, dozens of laws went into effect, ranging from mandatory arrest policies to more stringent penalties for repeat offenders to enhanced training of law enforcement to additional funding for shelters and hotlines. These laws have proved to be successful and encouraged victims to make reports.

The laws and increased availability of counseling and shelter programs are subsequently saving lives. According to the Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35 percent from 1993 to 2007, from 1.66 to 1.07 per 100,000 female U.S. residents.

This means more mothers are there to watch their children grow up and fewer children have to feel the rage that comes in witnessing violence against their mother.

The publicity surrounding the Simpson trial also raised awareness about organizations such as The Family Place, a domestic violence service provider based in Dallas. Day after day, a spokesperson from our organization was featured on a television news program or quoted in the newspaper. It would be the first time many isolated victims of domestic violence would learn about our services or their rights as victims.

Calls for help increased dramatically during that time, and they have not diminished 20 years later. From 1994 to 2013, The Family Place had a 20 percent increase in shelter clients and a 100 percent increase in the total number of clients served in the community.

We have seen professional athletes taking a leadership role in helping stop violence against women. For example, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has started the SCORE Foundation, which helps provide funding to place mentors with young boys in domestic violence shelters in Texas. Because of the violence that future Hall of Fame baseball player Joe Torre witnessed his father commit against his mother, he established the Safe at Home Foundation to provide secure after-school sanctuaries for children when it isn’t safe to go home.

The families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman will never be able to have their loved ones back. But thanks to the actions of caring members of society, other families will not have this same loss. The legacy of the Simpson story is one that has changed the outcomes of domestic violence forever.

Paige Flink is CEO of The Family Place and may be contacted at

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