The group Brenda founded grew from six women to 72, and these women began to push for change. The CWAA gained attention, and was instrumental in altering California law regarding Battered Women Syndrome from behind bars. The syndrome explains how a woman devastated and trapped from abuse may end up killing her abuser after perceiving she is in imminent danger. By 1992, a law passed allowing evidence of the syndrome in the courtroom. Some of the women in prison began to have their cases retried.
On October 22, 2008, after serving 26 years of her sentence, Brenda became the 20th member of the CWAA to be released from jail. She was reunited with her son, has started a non-profit, Every 9 Seconds—referencing how often a woman is battered in the United States—and continues her advocacy work against domestic violence.
"You know something, it takes a lot of courage to be out," Brenda says. "And then there's a relief, like you're not walking on eggshells anymore."
When Sin by Silence airs on October 17, Klaus wants audiences to understand why: why women are abused. Why women don't leave. Why women are silenced.
"I hope people take away the silence factor, which is at the core of the problem," Klaus says. "The women provide us a preventative road map for change. Understand, it's not that easy to leave. There's finances, there's children, there are good times that keep you there. I want it to click—what makes domestic violence what it is."
"These women who have been incarcerated," Klaus says, "inmates who have come together and changed laws. If they can do all this from behind bars, then we can definitely do our part out here. The title of the flim comes from an Abraham Lincoln quote: 'To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.' I think that sums it up right there."
As for Brenda, she wants domestic abuse victims to remember two things. One, the abuse is not your fault.