Students, staff and community members packed into NMC for the premiere screening of “Sin By Silence,” a documentary based heavily on the research by Sociology Professor Dr. Elizabeth Leonard.
“I was so shaken by the encounter [of meeting these women] that I couldn’t leave it behind,” Leonard said.
The film chronicles the true stories of women incarcerated for killing their abusive partners, and the sorority-like sisterhood that has formed through parallel testimonies. One of the film’s key figures, Brenda Clubine, was present to share more of her story firsthand.
“I was called every name I could possibly be called, and I was timed when I went to the grocery store,” Clubine said.
Clubine founded Convicted Women Against Abuse, describing it as a support group dedicated to help imprisoned women break the silence about abuse. Through letter campaigns, media coverage and senate hearings, CWAA has actively pursued educating the judicial system. Some members have found favor with the courts, including Clubine. She was released from prison last October, just one week after a parole officer deemed her “a threat to the public.”
“[One week I’m facing life in prison], and the next I have a judge telling me ‘good luck,’” Clubine said, laughing.
The screening was followed by a discussion panel featuring Director/Producer and Vanguard Alumna Olivia Klaus, Editor and Communication Professor Ann-Caryn Cleveland, Executive Director of the Nicole Brown Foundation Denise Ballester, Clubine and Leonard.
Audience members were handed red flags as they walked in, a symbolic representation not to ignore warning signs in relationships.
“I wish so badly I’d have seen someone or had someone in my life that could have held that flag,” Clubine said.
Among the viewers was notable social justice advocate Denise Brown. Brown’s sister, Nicole Brown, was the victim in the controversial O.J. Simpson trial. After the event, Brown urged audience members to take action.
“Get involved . . . don’t get complacent. When you’re complacent, people die,” Brown said.
Many students were inspired by the film’s message of action.
“I realized that I am not protected from abuse, even in this Vanguard bubble,” junior Anika Wiebe said. “No one deserves to be abused.”
Klaus became interested in the subject of domestic violence when she discovered a close friend needed a place to stay.
“You always hear about domestic violence, but it’s something that happens to someone else,” Klaus said. “It would never affect me.”
Many students were shocked as Leonard described the most recent legislative decisions regarding battered women’s shelters in California.
“The budget wasn’t cut, it was eliminated,” Leonard said. “A lot of money that was going to shelters . . . has dried up.”
Leonard was referring to the $20.4 million that was eliminated from the California Department of Public Health’s Domestic Violence Program by Gov. Shwarzenegger in 2009.
President Carol Taylor described her expectations that the film would have on viewers.
“[I expect] they will commit to be a voice for those who have no voice . . . and make a difference,” Taylor said.
The Sept. 2 screening kicked off a two-month, nation-wide tour with both Klaus and Clubine. Events have been scheduled in states with the highest documented domestic violence rates.