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.