By Una Haave, Guest Writer
Through the documentary “Sin by Silence” and the subsequent discussion led by guest speaker Brenda Clubine, members of the Pacific Lutheran University community learned about the complexities of domestic abuse Nov. 12 in the Scandinavian Center.
Voices Against Violence, a PLU group that focuses on bringing awareness about power-based personal violence, partnered with the sociology department to bring the documentary and Clubine, a domestic abuse survivor, to campus.
After having served 26 years in prison for the death of her abusive husband, Clubine finally got the chance to tell Pacific Lutheran University students her story. She also talked about the misconceptions of domestic violence.
“In a 6-month period I had filed 42 police reports, “ Clubine said. “Did it matter? No. Because by the time I was on trial, fighting for my life, they said that the victim wasn’t on trial, I was.”
The film “Sin by Silence” portrayed a legal system that does not fully comprehend the complexities of abuse.
“I had a restraining order. I’d pressed charges. I had hospital reports. I had eye witnesses. I had all those things, and none of it mattered,” Clubine said. “Why? Because our system wasn’t set up to work yet.”
In an attempt to improve this system, Clubine founded Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA), the first inmate-initiated and inmate-led group in the U.S. prison system.
She said she created this group to encourage women to share their stories about domestic abuse so they could help other women in the same situation and stop the cycle of violence that often develops in abusive relationships.
Thanks to the efforts of CWAA, laws for battered women have changed since Clubine was convicted in 1983.
Clubine, however, said she is still not happy with where society is today. “Do we have a lot of work to do? Yes, we do. Can we all be a part of that work? Absolutely,” she said.
After the screening, Clubine walked up to the stage and received a standing ovation from the audience. “I’m a survivor,” she said.
On tables outside of the Scandinavia Center were recent pictures of the women in CWAA and information on how to write to them.
“I’m going to ask each one of you, if nothing else, to pick up one of those pieces of paper and write those women, and let them know that you heard their voice tonight,” Clubine said. “That means a lot to them when they have nothing else.”
Junior Kaitlyn Elms and first-year Katie Hilliker both expressed interest in writing. “I think that they’re truly brave to even be in a group like this,” Elms said. She said she felt there is a lot of stigma associated with those who have been in prison, but that people rarely ask why they are actually there.
“What would have happened if they hadn’t acted? They probably would have been the ones killed,” Hilliker said.
Clubine also talked about the importance of avoiding abusive relationships.
Everyone attending the event received red flags as they entered the Scandinavian Center. Clubine spoke about these red flags, and the importance of paying attention to red flags in a relationship. At one point she asked the audience to raise their flags.
“Look at all the red flags, everybody. You all see those? I didn’t. I missed them,” Clubine said. “Red flags are the things that we need to pay attention to in a relationship.”
Clubine wrapped up by reminding everyone to stand up against violence and be a part of the solution.