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Fighting abuse: Doll’s house provides haven for victims

“The first thing is to listen.”

Stephanie Turner of the Darlene Slater Rehabilitation Center for Women, or Doll’s House, in Brookhaven outlines the first step in caring for someone who is a victim of sexual abuse, assault or any unwanted sexual contact.

“There are women who come to Doll’s House just to get it out,” Turner said.

Turner relays the stories of women who suffered unwanted sexual contact at a young age and carry the pain and trauma well into their 30s and 40s, marked by what she calls a trail of wrong relationships and abusive marriages.

Turner and her husband, Johnnie, run Doll’s House where they serve as co-executive directors. The center located on Hwy. 51 North serves as a rehabilitation and empowerment hub for women.

“Practically every lady that comes through here has dealt with sexual abuse,” Turner said.

She said most of the time the women were victimized when they were young girls and haven’t shared their stories with anyone, carrying it and dealing with it for years. Those tragedies led to Turner’s mantra of “healing the wounds of the little girl in the woman.”

The methods the Turners use at Doll’s House include listening to each woman’s story then working on dismantling the possible trauma that may still be present years after the incident.

“Most [women] think it’s something they did,” Turner said. “We let them know they are the victim, it was not right nor was it their fault.”

She said they also try to get the women they speak with to take their eyes off themselves and to see the perpetrators for who they are and what they did. All of these efforts are part of a process Turner said results in the women being “delivered” from what had them bound.

While recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center compiled information about sexual violence and the work it does year-round.  The NSVRC website has a host of downloadable resources including statistics about sexual violence as well as advice and tips on caring for victims of abuse.

“We have to just be honest with them and we have to keep the communication open,” Turner said about teaching children about sexual violence and pointing out forms of sexual violence when you see it.

Turner recommends that anyone who witnesses sexual violence report it. To illustrate her point, she shared the unheard side of the Kimberly Yolanda Jones story. Jones, 46, of Monticello, was found dead Jan. 14 on Crooked Lane. Her boyfriend, James Haines, was arrested and charged with murder the same day.

Turner said Jones’s co-workers called Doll’s House about the suspected abuse that Jones was allegedly going through. Turner then went to Jones’s workplace to speak with her.

“The man came up and saw the Doll’s House truck and was furious,” Turner said.

Turner said Jones was supposed to come by the Doll’s House Monday, Jan. 12, but didn’t show up. The next Turner heard about Jones was when her body was found.

“We can have more forums,” Turner suggests as a way of spreading awareness and prevention. “We need to keep the communication going. We need to have conversations about sexual abuse.”

Caution and looking at the situation closely is what Turner said is important when talking about and dealing with sexual abuse and assault.

“A lot of times these women are judged for the way they dress, carry themselves or the men they date,” Turner said.

She advocates that everyone should look a little closer.

“We can’t judge a book by its cover,” she said. We’ve got to open it up and read it; we’ve gotta dig in.”