BOWLING GREEN — After a beating that landed her in intensive care, Brenda Clubine decided to divorce her abusive husband after only a year and a half of marriage.
Her mistake: agreeing to meet him for dinner, where he promised to sign the papers and give her the freedom and safety she desired. Before the night was over, Ms. Clubine, in fear for her life, struck him in the head with a wine bottle and escaped, leaving him to bleed to death.
The Californian was convicted of second-degree murder in 1984 — long before her state allowed battered-woman syndrome to be introduced as evidence in a case like hers. “You weren’t allowed to do that,” she said. “They kept saying the victim was not on trial.”
Ms. Clubine, now 51, is to be the speaker at 6:30 p.m. today at the Northwest Ohio Silent Witness Project’s annual unveiling ceremony at Dayspring Assembly of God Church on State Rt. 25 just north of Bowling Green.
Released from prison in 2008 after her conviction was overturned, Ms. Clubine is a full-time advocate for domestic violence victims. She founded the support group Convicted Women Against Abuse while behind bars. When she was released 26 years later, she launched Every 9 Seconds, an advocacy group that takes its name from the FBI statistic that a woman is beaten in this country every nine seconds.
Mary Krueger, director of the Women’s Center at Bowling Green State University, said Ms. Clubine’s story is amazing. She said she has shown the documentary Sin by Silence, which features Ms. Clubine’s story, to her classes. As powerful as that story is, Ms. Krueger said much of the value of the Silent Witness Project, which started locally in 2001, lies in that the 61 stories the project will tell today are about girls or women who have been killed in the last decade by husbands, ex-husbands, partners, or stalkers in northwest Ohio.
“It is a little different every year because unfortunately there are always new victims every year,” Ms. Krueger said. “I think the value of the Silent Witness Project in general is the fact that it is 100 percent local. Every single person is from northwest Ohio — Toledo, Bowling Green, Findlay, Lima. That makes it really difficult for people to look away. It makes it that much harder for people to say, ‘Oh. this problem is somewhere else.’ ”
Ms. Clubine and Convicted Women Against Abuse worked to gain clemency for battered women who were in prison for killing their abusers, although Ms. Clubine said she does not condone taking such a drastic measure.
“I don’t think anybody wants anyone to say, ‘It’s OK. It’s no big deal,’ because it’s somebody’s life,” she said. “There are a lot of extenuating circumstances that are involved, though. I think the judge, the jury, the trier of fact needs to hear all the details and make a decision based on that fact and have an expert testify on how the culmination of these events affects the woman.”
Her advice to battered women: break the silence. “I think a lot of it starts with telling everyone and anyone about what’s going on,” she said. “Don’t be silent. It’s that silence that costs you your life.”
Domestic violence shelters and agencies that provide support services also need to make their presence known so that victims can easily access that shelter and support, she said.
Ms. Clubine said she doesn’t focus on the 26 years she spent in prison. She is happily married today and working in a field she’s passionate about. “Without my journey, No. 1, I wouldn’t be alive today,” she said. “No. 2, I’m grateful for it because it has built who I am today and it has empowered me and strengthened me as an individual where I know I have a voice and I’m able to give others a voice.”
Ms. Clubine is scheduled to do a presentation at McQuade Law Auditorium at the University of Toledo college of law at noon Tuesday. Sin by Silence is to be shown at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Gish Film Theater in BGSU’s Hanna Hall followed by a question-and-answer session with Ms. Clubine.
All three events are free and open to the public.
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