Meet Tasha, LGBT Survivor from Russia
The local Russian police followed her everywhere she went. Not to protect her from further violence, but to intimidate and silence her. Tasha knew she was different by age 16 but kept it hidden like most gay and lesbian individuals in Russia. When she was 22, emboldened by the gay rights movement she saw on the internet, she helped organize a gay rights group in her hometown of Dubna, about 2 hours north of Moscow. But in 2013, Russia enacted new anti-gay laws criminalizing gay rights organizing or publishing of written material supporting gay rights.
Tasha was targeted. One day, local police burst into her apartment that she shared with her girlfriend and ransacked it looking for evidence to arrest her. They found flyers in her living room for an upcoming demonstration. Tasha and her girlfriend were immediately arrested and interrogated for 4 hours without a break. After she admitted she was gay and part of a gay rights group, they took her to the basement and put her in a cold and windowless isolation cell for 3 days.
There she was taunted by several guards. That’s also where she was raped by one of them. “This will teach you to like men” he said, as he pushed her face down on the cold cement floor of her cell.
After her release, she reported the sexual violence to the Internal Affairs Division who never investigated the incident. For the next month, she noticed police cars following her whenever she left her apartment. Her girlfriend moved out and went into hiding.
Seeing no option for her long-term safety, Tasha fled Russia and ended up on the streets of Los Angeles. The airline ticket to get here nearly wiped out her life-savings, leaving her with only enough cash to live on for a week. Luckily, a homeless agency referred her to PTV. We quickly connected her with the large Russian community in Hollywood, who welcomed her and gave her a couch to sleep on and we found a great attorney who agreed to take her asylum case at no cost. And with the expertise of our medical and mental health staff, Tasha began to heal. She shared, “…the PTV staff were warm and caring and believed in me. It does not matter what other people think of me in Russia. I know the truth…I am a good and loving person.”
A PTV staff psychologist testified at her asylum hearing and after a legal process of more than 18 months, Tasha was granted political asylum by the US government in May. Tasha volunteers for many Russian-American and LGBT organizations and she is working toward her goal to become art gallery curator.