Carla Turco went from a silenced victim of domestic violence to an outspoken director of a local nonprofit that teaches self-defense to women and children.
Turco, 38, is not afraid to share her story, which she will do Tuesday at the third annual Tucson Youth Take Back the Night.
Running from 6 to 9 p.m. in Catalina Park, 900 N. Fourth Ave., the event is part of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month agenda and has been held in communities across the nation since 1978.
Tucson Youth Take Back the Night features four youth bands, youth leaders, a variety of speakers and projects aimed at increasing awareness of sexual assault and relationship violence.
The event also offers free food and T-shirts to the first 500 who show up.
“There’s more awareness this year,” said Audrey Ching, spokeswoman for the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, or SACASA. Funding from donations this year reached $7,000, she said, and the crowd is expected to exceed 500.
Kyla LaMoure, children’s advocate from the participating Tucson Centers for Women and Children, said unity is the key.
“Domestic violence stems from society, not from an individual,” she said. “This brings the community together.”
Another important aspect of the event is that although adults from participating organizations are involved as speakers or coordinators, the event itself is run by youth.
“The adult allies absolutely need to get out and support the youth leadership in events like this,” said Madeline Porta, who worked with the event two years ago as a SACASA volunteer and now contributes as Wingspan’s sexual violence prevention coordinator.
She remembers helping youths express their feelings about types of violence on posters and more than 100 T-shirts.
“These creative acts are extremely cathartic and healing,” she said. “It’s so inspiring and an absolute joy.”
Turco, married for seven years to an emotionally abusive husband, said it took her two years to gather enough self-esteem to get out of it.
“I was on my own,” she said. “I used to look in the mirror and tell myself how great I was. I didn’t have anyone else to tell me that.”
Her husband physically abused her once and emotionally abused her for years. She said people often don’t pay enough attention to the latter, but words can injure as harshly as blows.
“They take away your identity,” she said of abusers. “You become nothing, nothing. They take away your self-esteem.”
The low points get lower when victims turn to alcohol, drugs or food for comfort and escape.
A freelance graphic artist, Turco started a new life and created the Ella Group two years ago, teaching physical defense and empowerment.
“On the first day, women are very quiet and shy,” Turco said of the program. After the 12-hour class, she said, “They are smiling. They are ready to take on the world.”
For class information, visit www.ellagroup.org.
Source: Tucson Police Department
For more Tucson events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, visit www.sacasa.org
RAPES OF WOMEN IN TUCSON:
2008 (through March 10)
Attempted rapes 8
Attempted rapes 47
Attempted rapes 36