Marketing & Communications

A Difficult Path

By Dean Schnurr

"College was never going to be my thing," laughed BGSU Firelands student Felicia Turner who is poised to graduate with a degree in criminal justice on May 3, "but life is definitely a chain of events and my unfortunate circumstances gratefully led me to college."

Felica's journey has certainly not been the typical path to a bachelor's degree and her obstacles have been equally as unique.

Directly after high school, Felicia began dating and eventually married a man who was 14 years her senior.

"At the time, I really thought that he loved me," said Turner, now 30. Within just a few short months she learned differently when he began to physically, verbally, and emotionally abuse her. "He beat me on a regular basis. There would be brief breaks, but in general, the abuse occurred weekly."

"Felicia's story is a living testament and proof that bad things can happen in life, but you can still overcome and be successful." According to the National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control, an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Many of those victims stay with their partner.

Felicia stayed and endured the constant abuse. She was young and naïve and believed things would change. Eventually, the man gave Felica an ultimatum.

"He said I could marry him, or he would kill me," said Turner. She chose life and they were married in 2003.

But fate has a way of 'righting' life's path. Later that year Turner's abusive husband was arrested and jailed on unrelated charges. That incarceration ultimately gave her the strength to leave him and break free of her abusive bonds.

"It was still hard to end the relationship," said Turner. "An abuser will make you feel like you are worthless. That no one will ever want you again. It is the means by which they maintain control."

Turner eventually met another man and had a child, but the lingering effects of being a domestic abuse victim put an end to that relationship as well. "He was a good man," said Turner, "but I was defensive and because of the abuse, I shut people out."

According to Turner, she had become a statistic. "I was a single African-American mother with little education, broken, and working at a restaurant. I was at a low point."

Fate intervened again. A fellow server, Angela Work, was attending BGSU Firelands and encouraged Turner to register at the College.

"I understood what she was going through. I was a young mom too," said Work, who is now a BGSU alumni and in the planning stages of opening her own bakery. "I told her that success was not going to come knocking on her door, she needed to go find it."

Turner still didn't know if college was for her, but she decided to enroll in the criminal justice associate degree program and see where the process would take her. Little did she know she was starting a five-year journey that would provide a career, personal atonement, public service, and eventually, overwhelming happiness.

Each course that she took seemed to offer a piece of the puzzle which helped to put her life into perspective and helped with her healing process.

"I took something away from every class - even the math classes," she said .

Turner's journey was also aided by criminal justice instructor Tracy McGinley who became a mentor and confident. McGinley was an advocate against human trafficking and had experience in working with abuse victims. "Her office was a 'safe place' - somewhere I could go to cry and talk about my challenges," Turner said.

McGinley encouraged Turner to get involved with the human trafficking classes and projects which strived to educate the community on this social injustice and help victims.

"She is an inspiration to other students and the community." McGinley said. "Felicia's story is a living testament and proof that bad things can happen in life, but you can still overcome and be successful."

Turner found great satisfaction in the public service she was providing. It contributed to healing her wounds that were many years deep, but also gave her the opportunity to help others.

Through her college career, she participated in human traffic awareness programs, the Vagina Monologues, classroom presentations on domestic violence on both BGSU campuses, and Student Government.

"Being at BGSU Firelands has been an amazing experience and I learned things well beyond the classroom," she said. "I was blessed to have the right people come into my life at the right time. The people I have met in this College are cut from a different cloth - they are special and they have helped me to succeed."

According to Turner there were times when she was mad at God for the challenges he placed in her life, but she now understands that it was part of a bigger plan. In her heart she knows that her path to college may not have happened without the trials she endured earlier in life. "I think it's weird how life works out," she said with a grin.

After graduation, Turner intends to continue the work she has started at BGSU Firelands. Using her bachelor's degree in criminal justice, she wants to work for the courts in victim's advocacy or in juvenile probation.

"She has great potential. She can relate to victims far better than most people and she can help others to avoid becoming victimized," said McGinley.

"When I was being abused, I never felt like a victim, but in hindsight, I now know I was," Turner said. "I want to help other victims build self-esteem and understand they have the power to change their situation, to change their lives for the better."

(Posted April 29, 2013 )