The slogan for the documentary "Sin by Silence" reads "Prison is safer than the love of your life."
Saint Mary's Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) screened the documentary Monday evening to educate students about the cycle of domestic violence and its consequences.
The 2009 documentary studies women sentenced to life in prison for murdering their abusive husbands. The women featured in the documentary act from behind bars as advocates against domestic violence.
Senior Taylor Paton serves on BAVO's Student Advisory Committee. She said the film is one way to educate the student body about domestic violence as a social problem.
"The most important thing to take away from [this movie] is that we need to raise awareness of domestic violence issues," Paton said. "We need to educate people in the options and the cycle of violence."
Program director Connie Adams said BAVO chose the film because it is a striking example of the consequences of abuse.
"The issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are prevalent issues in our society," Adams said. "However, they are often overlooked or ignored."
Many people do not understand the reality of domestic abuse, Adams said.
"It is difficult to address issues which are misunderstood for one primary reason ¾ an effective solution reflects a problem," Adams said. "If a social problem is misunderstood, the solution cannot be fully effective."
Adams said the documentary is a "particularly powerful film."
"[‘Sin by Silence'] demonstrates the complexity of relationship violence and matches a face with the issue," Adams said. "Furthermore, it highlights women who have taken action and created change despite the injustices they have endured. Events which empower attendees to take action are central to the aims of BAVO."
The movie and panel discussion are a means to educate women about the real stories of domestic violence, Adams said.
"This is one reason Saint Mary's College has instituted the Belles Against Violence Office on campus," she said. "It is a proactive response to end violence."
After the film, Professor Leonard Sanchez led a panel discussion. Sanchez, a member of the Department of Social Work, shared stories from his time working in the Arizona police department.
He also addressed the need for improvement in the courts' handling of domestic abuse cases.
Sophomore Mallory Welsh said the discussion and film were eye-opening.
"One thing I really learned from this movie and discussion panel was how much the courts don't care about the victims," Welsh said. "The courts aren't as emotionally invested in the victims as the social workers are. People are very uneducated."
Welsh said Sanchez's examples of unbalance in the court system struck her as unjust. In some states, Sanchez said a person who shoots and kills a home intruder would be held less accountable for the death than a woman who shoots and kills an abusive husband who attacks her.
"[That explanation] really made me mad," Welsh said. "I can't believe that both cases aren't viewed as self defense. I learned that though the courts have made some progress in tackling abuse cases, there is still a long way to go. They need to improve."
Domestic abuse is an issue that deserves more attention in order to stop this cycle of violence, Welsh said.
"The community needs more events to bring awareness," she said. "We need to educate people because education is what brings change."