Sin by Silence

“Sin by Silence” is a powerful documentary that shows the story of women who just
wanted a way out. The subtitle of the documentary was entitled, “Prison is
safer than the love of your life.” I feel this was important to note because
incarceration are viewed by others as a dangerous spot to be in, one has to
worry about their lives because of the threat of other inmates. Being that
people would view their homes as a safe space, it’s ironic that a female victim
of domestic violence does not feel safe at home or with the love of her life
(two places where she should feel safe). These women were in violent intimate
relationships, where they were subjected to various forms of abuse by their
male counterparts. This documentary showed how these women were incarcerated
for years for fighting back; however, they ended up killing their husbands in
the process. Not having any laws that protected these women or gave them some
form of leeway, they were charged with first and second degree charges of
murder and left to have years and life sentences.

                In the beginning of the documentary, it was noted that “every 9 seconds a woman is beaten.” This stood out to me because a woman is beaten every 9 seconds,
imagine how many women are beaten in an hour or day? This goes to show how
little we as a people and the criminal justice system does not pay attention to
situations that occur daily. The introduction to the documentary was very
powerful, but simple at the same time. It had the video recording of a girl on
the phone with 911 reporting her parents fighting and also showed dark images.

                Located at the California Institution for Women, the documentary allowed Rosemary, Glenda, Virgil, Brenda and LaVelma, inmates of the institution, to tell their story. Rosemary, a woman who was beaten and molested by her father, couldn’t share her story at first. When encouragement from her peers, she was able to explain how her husband was worse than her dad and how he used weapons to rape her. The abuse she endured from her father and husband was abuse that she never spoke of, silence was the code she followed by. Now that the criminal justice
system sentenced her to incarceration due to killing her husband, it allowed
them to re-silence and revictimize her at the same time. Because of the Convicted
Women Against Abuse movement, she and others were allowed to speak up and be
heard. Most were not able to receive any help from the criminal justice system
after they were abused, but speaking about it allowed them to receive closure
and comfort from other women who received similar forms of abuse.

                The movement, started by Brenda Clibine, started it to seek a source of hope. Right before she started it, she was at a crossroads in her life where she was going to choose whether she should commit suicide or whether she should stick it out. She chose to stick it out and because of her, citizens are aware that domestic
violence is a serious problem in homes that affects more than the victim and
offender. Brenda, an inmate of 26 years, suffered three broken ribs and a
collar bone from her husband. When she was being abused, she thought she failed
her son because she couldn’t make the relationship work.

                Trying to make the relationship work has been an option that I felt victims shouldn’t have used before I got into the Victimology concentration because I didn’t
think it was substantial enough; however, watching tis movie and taking these
courses has made me realize that this is a common thought in victim’s minds.
Based on backgrounds of victims and their moral beliefs, this has also been
other reasons why they would decide to stay.

                Brenda being incarcerated and away from her son traumatized her, but finding out that he was killed led her to consider suicide. After watching this documentary, I felt that God made her live so she can make an impact in others’ lives and be allowed to reunite with her son (who was not killed). Her reuniting with her son and him welcoming her back to society has allowed her to cope with her victimization and show others that despite the hard times, the sun will still
shine. The fact that his adoptive parents told her that her son (Joey) was
murdered was cruel, but from their perspective, they probably did not want his
biological mother to cause pain or give him high hopes.

                Glenda, who was married to her husband for 24 years, came in the prison at 44-years-old. She was first hit by her husband when she was 8 months pregnant
with their second child. Once the violence started, threats started and she
never doubted these threats either. Glenda finally had enough and experienced
the battered women’s syndrome as her husband was about to harm her. Instead of
harming her, she ended up killing him instead. One thing that Glenda said in
the documentary was that despite his death, she is still in this
“relationship,” where she is still being victimized. This is because she is
still incarcerated and paying for his murder as well as people looking down
upon her victimization.

                Separation assault, a term used in the documentary, is the point after the victim leaves the violence. Now the victim’s risk of being murdered has increased to 75% with them leaving not stopping the violence. Finding out a term and percentage such as this is disturbing because this makes a victim more reluctant or indecisive to leave their offender because their risk of death increases once they leave. One thing that was noted that reminded me of a discussion we had in class was when they said it’s difficult to define emotional and psychological abuse as
abusive. Being that there is no substantial or physical evidence, it would be
hard for a lawyer to prove that someone is being abused or is just having an

                Chief John Welter spoke in the documentary about how the policy for stopping domestic disputes was handled in the 70s, 80s and 90s. He said that the officers would separate the parties, didn’t make arrests, allowed them to handle it on their own and made arrests if they had to come back. In my opinion, this was a
horrible way of dealing with the problem because not only did most problems
escalate after officers leave, but the officers did not follow up to make sure
the problems ended. This showed how the criminal justice system was lazy when
it came to making arrests and how much of a joke some offenders took their job.

                Because of legislation, activists speaking out and court cases, there are new laws enforced to help victims of crime. These laws are very helpful towards a
victim, but is not promoted enough for victims to realize the power and help
they can receive if they only knew about it. Two quotes that also stood out to
be in the documentary were: “If you’re being swept off your feet, it’s probably
a danger sign,” and “If you feel trapped, you are.”

                These two quotes stood out to me because being swept off your feet helps people to have their guard up all times, but does not allow them to appreciate the good relationship they may really have. Being swept off your feet is something that
every female wants, but if the relationship is one of those “too good to be
true moments,” then I would say be careful. Keep your guard up, but allow
yourself to enjoy what you have if it’s real and has potential to grow.

                In terms of if you feel trapped, I feel this is powerful because it can pertain to many aspects of life. This can pertain to work, relationships, living
situation, etc. This allows people to realize that if they feel they are
trapped, a change needs to be made. Feeling trapped allows one to settle and
them to be controlled. Settling and being controlled are two factors that
victims of domestic violence have in their relationship.

                In sum, this documentary allowed me to want to help victims of crime more because they are people who utilize our resources and are people who are in need. They need physical and psychological help and there are not many criminal justice officials who are in it to help them. Helping and ensuring that they receive
justice and have more resources they can utilize can prevent murders, suicides
and bring back stability to several lives. Not helping these victims allows
crime to continue and increase not only within the home, but outside of it as


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