A verdict and a court sentence doesn’t end pain for victim

Published 12:10 am Saturday, April 15, 2023

KANNAPOLIS — Hearing her sexual predator’s verdict read aloud in court on Monday and his subsequent sentencing seemed surreal to the woman who, as a teenager, was victimized by him for almost almost two years.

In her 20s now, the girl, Hannah Dabbs, described hearing David Neil Brown’s verdict as a relief. The Post doesn’t usually name victims of sexual abuse, but Dabbs agreed to have her name used in this story.

“I felt kind of guilty, but at the same time, I was just glad it was over,” Dabbs said.

According to Dabbs, those feelings of guilt were not new and represented just a portion of the emotional spectrum the she experienced through the entire ordeal, as she fluctuated between anger, sadness and denial.

It’s been four years since authorities arrested Brown. That drawn-out time line proved its own challenge. As requests for continuations of the court case became routine, Dabbs eventually got used to going through the motions.

“It kept coming up,” Dabbs said. “We had a court date, and it would get pushed out. It was just hanging over my head all the time. That was pretty rough.” But the adversity strengthened her resolve to face what happened.

She noted that she had preparation for her testimony, but even so, it was difficult.

“I’ve been able to talk about it for a long time,” Dabbs said. “It doesn’t bother me to talk about it.”

But there is a marked difference between talking about it, when she has control of the conversation, and testifying in a court of law, when anyone testifying is at the mercy of the lawyers’ questions and the court’s requirements.

“As far as the court goes, my testimony was very, very hard. It was hard being cross-examined by his attorney. He beat me up real bad,” she said.

Her assailant’s presence in the courtroom made things emotionally more complicated for Dabbs, but not in the way one might expect.

“I knew what he was facing,” Dabbs said. “I was really disappointed that he didn’t take a plea deal.”

Brown is set to spend the next 48 years in prison. Hearing just how much prison time lay before Brown was hard for Dabbs, who once saw the man as a protector.

“The tough part was when he was being sentenced,” Dabbs said. “It was just sad.”

Dabbs indicated that she cares about the Brown family. She spent almost every weekend there as a teenager. She was close friends with Brown’s daughters.

“I went to church with them on the weekends,” Dabbs said. “Sometimes, I stayed with them throughout the week. It just depended on what I was doing or what they were doing.”

During that time, the proximity opened the door for Brown’s predation.

Still, by being so close to the family, knowing how the verdict would impact them was difficult for Dabbs.

“As far as the verdict, I was in shock,” Dabbs said. “I just felt sorry for his family.”

In the years since Brown’s arrest, Dabbs attempted to reclaim some normalcy in her life.

She fell in love, got married and had a child. Her daughter turned one in February. However, the marriage would not last. Dabbs and her husband are now separated, and she lives with her father in Cabarrus County.

Having a daughter has shifted how Dabbs views her own assault, though.

“Everybody has always wanted me to see myself as a victim,” Dabbs said. “The story has always been that I was willing, but that doesn’t change the law. It has always been hard to see myself as a victim, but having a daughter now, I would be feeling the same that my parents do about this if it was my daughter.”

According to Dabbs, her parents have been supportive of her, though it doesn’t change that they felt betrayed by a man they trusted.

“Neil (Brown) knew me when I was young,” Dabbs said. “He knew me since I was five years old. That doesn’t sit right with my parents.”

Dabbs wants to leave it all behind but admits that she faces an uphill battle.

“Since it is over with, we are trying to move on and forget about it,” Dabbs said. “I will never forget about it.”