Today our special How I See DV guest is Tonya Turner, Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In this position, she oversees the legal services program that represents young domestic and dating violence survivors between the ages of 12-24 in civil protection proceedings and custody matters. Tonya is an expert on LGBTQ dating abuse and has provided key trainings on the issue to law enforcement and the American Bar Association.
I provide holistic legal services to young LGBTQ survivors of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. I also train young people about healthy relationships so that they can better identify unhealthy or abusive ones.
Why did you get involved with this work?
I believe dating violence, stalking and sexual assault are often normalized and minimized and I wish to help shape a world where dating violence is not acceptable or tolerated.
What sustains you in this work?
The fact that I genuinely believe that helping one person actually makes a difference. I believe the impact of my work can really shape the way young people view relationships and assist them in making healthier choices.
What are some of the unique struggles people in abusive LGBTQ relationships face?
Many LGBTQ teens are not yet “out” to their parents or friends and may be afraid that an abusive dating partner will “out” them to friends or family. Also, many young LGBTQ survivors are afraid to ask for help because bullying or harassment may start or increase.
Many LGBTQ teens also are afraid that they will be not believed or taken seriously. Often adults believe that abuse between LGBTQ partners is always mutual, does not occur in lesbian relationships, or that the abuser is only the more dominate partner.
What would you say to someone who is hesitant to get help about their relationship because they are afraid of getting outed?
I would stress that everyone deserves to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Next, I would discuss their concerns about speaking to their parents. If they are not ready to come out, I would encourage them to safety plan and connect them with LGBTQ resources so that they could get additional support.
How do you define a healthy relationship?
A healthy relationship involves two people who can laugh together, talk about anything, encourage each other and respect each other’s differences. In a healthy relationship, your partner makes you feel like nothing is impossible and they will be right there with you.
We know you were involved with the creation of showmelovedc.org. Can you tell us about that project?
Many LGBTQ people do not feel supported or know their legal rights. Show Me Love was a campaign created to celebrate healthy LGBTQ relationships, and to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community about legal rights and resources available to people in unhealthy or abusive relationships.
Please complete this sentence. I see DV_______.
I see domestic violence not being tolerated as we empower people to have healthier relationships and they stand up and say violence is not acceptable.
About Our Contributor
Tonya Turner is currently the Director of Legal Services at Break the Cycle. In her position at Break the Cycle, Tonya trains Metropolitan Police Department Officers and adult service providers about domestic violence laws that impact young people and how to better help young people experiencing abuse. She has provided substantive and skills training with such programs as the ABA’s Commission on Domestic Violence Custody Institute, the National Institute on Civil Representation of Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Sexual Assault Who Are D/deaf, Hard of Hearing and/or with Disabilities, and Best Practices for Lawyers Assisting Pro Se Victims of DV with Civil Protection Orders. Tonya also does outreach and education on LGBTQ domestic and dating violence. She is a board member of Rainbow Response Coalition (RRC). RRC is actively committed to informing LGBT people in the Washington Metropolitan Area of their legal rights and ensuring that law enforcement officers respond to dating/domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking calls involving LGBT people appropriately. Tonya is also on the advisory board for Show Me Love- a local campaign to raise the awareness, inform survivors in DC’s LGBTQ communities about their legal rights, and direct people to resources about maintaining healthy and violence-free relationships. Tonya received her advanced degree from Rutgers School of Law.
This post is by a very talented writer and brave survivor, Courtney Queeney. We were moved by Courtney’s article in the New York Times “The View From the Victim Room” which detailed her experience of renewing an emergency protective order. Today, she shares with us how she saw domestic violence red flags in her past relationship.
After my ex-boyfriend punched, choked and kicked me one night, I spent a few days in shock. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten into such a relationship in the first place.
When I reflected on the span of our relationship, the red flags were glaring.
Red Flag: He pursued me for months before I eventually said yes, because after all, I’d met him through a mutual acquaintance and he was a certified yoga instructor. With those credentials he must have been safe, although I was uncomfortable as early as our second date, when he professed his love.
Red Flag: He isolated me from my friends, family, and favorite activities. At first, he was sad to see me go home; then I was staying away from him too long, depriving him of my company so I could write, look for jobs and feed my cat. If I went out with friends, he’d text during the night to tell me how much he missed me. He didn’t want me to have a job, because that would have subtracted from his time, and allowed me greater financial freedom.
Red Flag: He sulked when I didn’t want to sleep with him, like a child who had just been sent to bed without his dessert. Post-breakup, his objectification of women as sexual objects became even more disturbing in both his art and his writing. He’d written about a fantasy he had of flaying an ex so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the death threats he sent me involved him raping me, then attacking the body parts specifically identifying me as female; he didn’t, for example, want to kick me in the shins.)
Red Flag: The messages he sent after I broke up with him were even more transparently disturbing: I was clearly responsible for his behavior. Why did you provoke me? he wrote. (For the record, I had knocked on a bathroom door, worried he was going to pass out.) He wrote I’m sorry for the way things went down that night. He used the passive tense; he didn’t write: I hit you. Or: I was on drugs. Or: I choked you. Or: I kicked you. In the same message, he wrote: Can you somehow get beyond it? Please find a way to forgive me. Somehow, as a woman, it was my job to make the situation better for him.
Red Flag: He was irrationally jealous of my male friends. When I went to visit two of them for a week, he refused to get out of bed, texting me pitiful messages about how he couldn’t wait until I came home. He set his computer up so I had my own desktop, though I repeatedly told him not to bother. I later learned that monitoring someone’s computer and phone are classic red flags.
Red Flag: After he’d hurt me so badly my ER doctor kept looking at the scans of my face and repeating I can’t believe nothing is broken, I was still responsible for his weight loss, his family asking about my abrupt disappearance, his loneliness, his insomnia and panic attacks.
Red Flag: He repeatedly wrote that he couldn’t live without me. One night, he cut himself badly with a knife and couldn’t staunch the bleeding. When his incessant attempts to contact me suddenly stopped, I knew he’d acted on these threats, probably on my birthday. If he’d succeeded in his suicide attempt, it would have been the ultimate punishment: I would have to carry that guilt for the rest of my life. I don’t think he meant to succeed; it was a play for my sympathy.
I was lucky. I glossed over red flag after red flag, but when it was my relationship or my life, I chose life. I just wish I’d done it sooner.
About Our Contributor:
Courtney Queeney is the author of Filibuster to Delay a Kiss (Random House). She lives in Chicago.
One goal of our “How I See DV” campaign has been to show that people have unique views of domestic violence, specific to their community, their experiences and their own personal situation. We are proud of our many allies in the movement to end abuse, especially the work done by Casa de Esperanza, the National Latin@ Domestic Violence Resource Center whose mission is to mobilize Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence. Today we hear from Heidi Notario, Training & Technical Assistance Coordinator at Casa de Esperanza as she shares how she sees domestic violence.
I welcome each October as a great opportunity to highlight the work of culturally specific organizations in the context of ending violence against women. All of us in the anti-violence field hear about trauma-informed approaches and evidenced-based practices. These are the buzz words of our times. For some, these concepts seem new, intimidating, and out of their realm as advocates and survivors. “I’m not a researcher”- I hear time and time again.
And yet, many culturally specific organizations have historically provided services that are trauma-informed and carry strong evidence to support their efficacy. A key element to defining trauma- informed approaches relates to the way in which relationships are established between those in a supportive role, and those seeking support. These relationships are based on mutuality and respect. In these instances, helpers do not have the “expert” role as mere prescribers of services. Women and their families are not the “receivers” of such prescriptions in a passive manner. Rather, this is a fluid process where all are constantly learning from one another. In this context, supporting and fostering leadership skills among survivors is crucial in the work to end violence in Latin@ communities.
The work of the Líderes and promotoras/promotores are examples of culturally specific approaches to engage communities while utilizing their natural strength and shared wisdom. The impact of both approaches is long lasting and transformative. Both share the vision of maximizing community resources and supporting the development of leadership from within the communities.
Developed by Casa de Esperanza, the Líderes Program or the Latina Peer Education Initiative is a strategy that taps into the natural leadership among individuals, families and communities to share critical resources, build community and promote healthy relationships. The initiative is led by the women who serve as Líderes (Peer Educators). Líderes develop the trainings and tools that will be used in workshops; they recruit participants, and promote the workshops in the community. The goals of the project are accomplished by recruiting, training and supporting Latina Líderes to engage other individuals and families to acquire knowledge, skills and resources for immediate and long-term health and stability. This program has been adapted by a number of Latin@ organizations in the U.S.
Promotoras and Promotores are also community Líderes and their approach is equally effective. Promotoras started in Latin America as a way of reaching communities from within, on issues mostly related to health and wellness. Promotoras serve as liaisons between their community, health professionals, and others. As liaisons, they often play the roles of educator, mentor, outreach worker, advocate and role model. This approach has been very effective in Latin America and its strength is also evident in communities across the U.S.
What both approaches have in common is a deep recognition of the strengths of Latinas as community leaders, respect for their wisdom, and the belief that living with dignity is a birthright.
Watch: I am a leader– video. This inspiring 3 minutes and 49 seconds video describes the experiences of Latina women from Guatemala as they realized their inner leadership potential. This video is a great example of the strength of Latinas and Latin@ communities as resources for social change. Advocates from La Paz, a Latin@ organization in Chattanooga, TN, adapted the Líderes curriculum developed by Casa de Esperanza for this work. La Paz is an organization that works to empower and engage Chattanooga’s Latino population through advocacy, education and inclusion.
About Our Contributor
Heidi Notario, M.A. serves as the Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator of the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, a project of Casa de Esperanza. Prior to joining Casa’s team, Heidi was the Training Specialist at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV). She has advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities and Deaf individuals for more than ten years, working closely at the intersections of disabilities and violence against women. Heidi’s interests include a wide variety of issues related to the treatment afforded to survivors of violence with disabilities and Deaf survivors by the criminal justice system, service providers, and society at large. Heidi keeps on the forefront of her anti-oppression work the elimination of barriers that impact immigrant survivors and the LGBTQ community. Heidi views “accessibility” from a human rights framework and is committed to bringing this perspective into her work and personal life. Heidi is originally from Cuba and has resided in the U.S. since 1995. Heidi holds a Masters’ Degree in Sociology from Lehigh University.