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Warner Robins to hold vigil about abuse

WARNER ROBINS — Nashawn Turner has her own story to tell of how to get free from the shame and guilt of sexual abuse.

Turner, 44, a life empowerment coach and counselor, is the guest speaker at tonight’s candlelight vigil sponsored by Hodac, a nonprofit agency in Warner Robins that offers help for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence as well as other social programs.

“Once I got free, I’ve been able to encourage other women on how to allow that to happen to them,” Turner said in a telephone interview from her home in Quantico, Va. “They don’t have to live as victims. ... They can really begin again.”

Turner is expected to speak after the candlelight vigil at Centerville City Hall that will be preceded by a march from Hodac at 2762 Watson Blvd. The public is invited, with the mile march scheduled for 5 p.m.

“My heart is I would like to see people experience freedom,” said Kim Robertson, Hodac community prevention specialist.

“I would like people to experience the art of forgiveness. I want people to know they have a community resource in their hometown that can help them at any moment’s notice.”

When someone goes through such a dramatic experience, many feel they are all alone, that nobody understands and that it’s just them against the world, Robertson said.

The “Take Back the Night” event is designed to empower victims to take back their lives.

It offers an opportunity for members of the community to take a stand against sexual assault and domestic violence, sets aside a moment in time to acknowledge victims, their families and friends, and most of all, provides an opportunity for someone now trapped in the darkness to come into the light, organizers said.

However, no one will be asked to step forward or acknowledge their situation, said Bryetta Calloway, Hodac spokeswoman.

Instead, the event is designed to provide an opportunity for someone who may be struggling to see others who have come through victoriously, to understand that they are not alone and to hear about an agency that has all sorts of resources available to help, organizers said.

After the speaker, there will be a reception and refreshments, and victims advocates will be on hand for anyone who may want to talk to someone about their situation, Calloway said.

But it’s also perfectly all right to simply come and listen and blend in with the crowd of well-wishers and supporters, organizers said.

“When they’re ready to move forward, we’ll be here,” Calloway said of Hodac.

For Turner, the healing process didn’t come until years after she had been sexually assaulted at age 8 by an adult relative.

Her breakthrough moment happened one night at church as she listened to a message about matters of the heart.

“Basically, if we don’t deal with issues of our heart, it holds us captive all our lives,” Turner said.

Turner first told her husband.

“He just held me and loved me through it and let me know no one would be able to hurt me like that again,” she said.

She then told her mother, who wept. She next told her siblings and other family members.

As she came out of the darkness with that experience, Turner said she was able to begin to shed the shame and guilt that had held her bound for so many years. She also realized she had a message of hope for others.

She not only found the way out but she made it through.

And that’s what she hopes to share tonight.

For more information about the free event, contact Hodac at 953-5675.

For more information on Turner, visit uniquelydesignedcoaching.com.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 923-3109, extension 243.

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