Tina Turner's domestic violence survival story still inspires, empowers

Philadelphia mourns Turner's death and the powerful impact she had by sharing some of the most painful parts of her life.

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Tina Turner's domestic violence survival story still empowers
"(She was) the woman that we all ascribed to be ourselves," said domestic violence counselor Helena Fontes of Turner, who represented what so many women wanted to be.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Tina Turner's life took center stage most recently in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Cultural Center when "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical" was featured in November and December of 2022.

Six months later, Philadelphia mourns Turner's death and the powerful impact she had by sharing some of the most painful parts of her life as a survivor of domestic violence.

"(She was) the woman that we all ascribed to be ourselves," said domestic violence counselor Helena Fontes of Turner, who represented what so many women wanted to be.

"At 85, I've seen a lot of stuff. So you have to know that she inspired me," said Patricia Ramseur of Brooklyn, NY as she walked into the Kimmel Cultural Center on Thursday afternoon

SEE ALSO: Tina Turner in Philly: Live Aid with Mick Jagger, Eastern State music video, 6abc interview

"I'm from Ohio. I said I'm going to New York and I'm going to be like her," recalled Carol Riley of Cleveland, OH while standing next to Ramseur.

But behind Turner's perceived power was pain. They were the two faces of a superstar, much like the domestic violence survivors Fontes helps every day with her counseling services at the NewView Institute in Philadelphia.

"There is great secrecy involved in domestic violence relationships because of the shame that's involved with it," said Fontes.

Analyzing data from the CDC, our 6abc Data Team found in Pennsylvania 37.1% of women report experiencing intimate partner violence and/or stalking in their lifetimes. More than 30% of men report the same issue.

SEE ALSO: Music world mourns loss of Rock n' Roll legend Tina Turner

Fontes says Turner stepping forward with her story helped remove some of the isolation domestic violence victims face.

"A lot of women could see snippets of their own lives, and they could therefore see they're not alone," said Fontes.

It proved that the woman who wowed Philadelphia in her 2008 concert at the Spectrum was not so different from so many other survivors of abuse.

"You gain strength from their story and you start to believe that I too can survive," said Fontes. "The only circumstance that you have the power in your life to change is your own."

As the story goes, Tina Turner only had 36 cents in her pocket when she left her abusive husband. She convinced a hotel clerk to give her a room, but Fontes says housing is often much harder to come by for domestic violence survivors. She says that needs to change in order to help more survivors create new lives just like Turner did.

Breaking away from abuse to forge her own path, Turner remained the example of not just survival but strength.

"She was the top of the line as far as I'm concerned," said Ramseur. "I'll always remember her as being the top of the line."