SILVER SPRING, Md., Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Over the last 25 years, women have represented the fastest growing prison population in America, with nearly 80 percent of those incarcerated being survivors of domestic violence as victims of rape, incest, forced prostitution, and other exploitation. In many cases, the abuse sparked their path toward prison. With unprecedented access inside California's oldest women's prison, the California Institution for Women, SIN BY SILENCE is a gateway into the lives of women who are domestic violence's worst-case scenarios: women who have killed their abusers and, due in part to state laws prohibiting legal defense from including evidence of battering, are now behind bars. In support of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Investigation Discovery presents the world television premiere of the award-winning documentary SIN BY SILENCE on Monday, October 17 at 8 PM ET/PT.
Inside the California Institution for Women, convicted domestic violence survivor Brenda Clubine created the first inmate-initiated and inmate-led group to help abused women, Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA). Created in 1989 to help convicted domestic violence survivors in prison break the silence about abuse, SIN BY SILENCE tells the personal and shocking stories of this extraordinary group of courageous women who advocate for a future free from domestic violence.
"We are proud to bring this powerful documentary to television, to share with television audiences the harrowing stories of these women behind bars," said Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of Investigation Discovery. "Instead of fighting a system that does not fully comprehend the complexities of abuse, the women of CWAA instead choose to fight to change laws for battered women nationwide. Through the premiere of this documentary, we hope to extend their message and champion their crusade to stop the cycle of violence."
Brenda Clubine endured broken bones and skull fractures – her face bruised and battered. By the time she was put behind bars for killing her husband in 1983, she felt worthless. She received a sentence of 15 years to life and had to give up her son for adoption. She thought she was the only woman in her situation, but Brenda soon discovered that she shared the common experience of love turning violent with many of her fellow inmates.
After years of meeting in the prison yard and telling each other their whispered stories, Brenda started CWAA, and her revelation inspired the support group – the first group of its kind in the entire U.S. prison system. Over the past 22 years, since the group was established, many familiar faces remain and are featured in the film, including:
LaVelma, who killed her husband, a pastor and pillar in the community. She never spoke a word to her family or church members that her husband beat her on a regular basis. She was embarrassed what others would think about what was happening behind closed doors. She had faith that her husband would change.
Joanne, who tried to leave but didn't have access to the necessary resources – no shelters, no hotlines, and no help from law enforcement. Yet, she knew she couldn't live in her car with two kids as temperatures dropped, so she continually returned to her husband as the abuse continued to get worse for her and her kids.
Glenda, who ran over her husband with her car in a public parking lot. He died at the scene. It seemed to be a cut and dry murder case, yet why would a 45-year-old woman with no prior criminal history brutally kill her husband?
Like many of the CWAA women, Brenda's years of inflicted abuse were never fully revealed in her trial since, prior to 1992, California law did not allow a legal defense to include evidence of battering. Through careful orchestration of letter-writing campaigns, media coverage, and senate hearings, a movement was born. Because of CWAA's advocacy, new laws were set in place in 1992 and 2002 that allow incarcerated survivors to utilize the defense of Battered Women's Syndrome and even challenge their original convictions. As a result, battered women across the country currently receive lesser sentences. Advocates are urging other states to follow in the steps of what CWAA accomplished by permitting inmates the opportunity to seek a new trial if they were convicted before the laws recognized the importance of expert testimony on the effects of battering.
After 26 years in prison, on October 22, 2008, founding member Brenda became the 20th CWAA member to gain her freedom. With it came a chance to walk on the beach. A chance to be with her son, who she was told by his adoptive parents had died just after her incarceration. A chance to continue her advocacy and be a voice for the women of CWAA in the free world.
Every other Monday for more than eight years, the director of SIN BY SILENCE, Olivia Klaus, attended CWAA meetings and built incredibly close relationships with each of the women, carefully capturing their stories for the documentary. Through their tales of terror and hope, viewers can begin to understand the cycle of violence, the signs of an abuser, and how each and every one of us is responsible for changing the tragedy of domestic violence.
SIN BY SILENCE makes its world television premiere on Monday, October 17 at 8 PM ET/PT on Investigation Discovery.
SIN BY SILENCE is produced by Quiet Little Place Productions with director and producer Olivia Klaus. The film is distributed by Women Make Movies, Inc. (www.wmm.com). For Investigation Discovery, Ron Simon is executive producer, Sara Kozak is vice president of production and Henry Schleiff is president and general manager.
About Investigation Discovery
Investigation Discovery (ID) is America's leading investigation network and the fastest-growing network in television. As the source for fact-based analytical content and compelling human stories, ID probes factors that challenge our everyday understanding of culture, society and the human condition. ID delivers the highest-quality programming to more than 77 million U.S. households with viewer favorites that include On the Case with Paula Zahn, Disappeared, Unusual Suspects and Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets. For more information, please visit InvestigationDiscovery.com, facebook.com/InvestigationDiscovery, or twitter.com/DiscoveryID. Investigation Discovery is part of Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the world's #1 nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in 210 countries and territories.