Rena Romano

For almost two decades, I was molested by an older half-brother starting at the age of four, and raped by a co-worker in my early twenties. The shame of their crimes almost killed me. I tried desperately to erase those horrific memories and numb the agonizing shame by using drugs, alcohol, and sex.

Shortly after turning 34, sitting home alone, I chugged liquor straight from the bottle. I contemplated suicide until I blacked out. Waking the next morning, I started crying and screaming, “I don’t want to die, I just don’t know how to live with this painful shame.” I remembered seeing an ad on TV, “If you’re depressed or suicidal, please call this number.” After reaching for the phone a hundred times, I finally dialed.

The man who answered was calm, gentle, and he listened without interruption or judgement as I shared the secrets that haunted me for years. Fortunately, he made me feel safe and proud that I had the courage to call. I soon realized that being believed had an immediate positive impact in my healing journey.

I joined a therapy group with six other women varying in age, status, and ethnicities. Sadly, the consequences of their telling were disastrous! I discovered some of my sister survivors had been in therapy for years, unable to heal. Prior to group, they were not believed, or blamed, then punished by being kicked out of their homes or forced to run away to escape ‒ while the perpetrators committing these atrocities were allowed to remain in the home.

Healing does begin by telling, and to encourage positive steps forward we must make telling safe! As a proud surTHRIVER® I eagerly use my voice, advocating to help survivors who have not found theirs yet. I chose to share my story on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in a TEDx talk, “Healing From Sexual Abuse Can Start With One Word,” because I know that remaining silent does not work. Together we can help survivors take back their power to live a happy, healthy, thriving life after trauma by providing a safe environment to share, and that starts by believing!