TAMPA, Fla. — On a Monday afternoon in her living room, Rena Romano opened up to Spectrum Bay News 9's Ashley Paul about the toughest thing she’s ever been through.
- Tampa Bay Crisis Center in need of clothing donations
- Fresh clothes can make a big difference for victims
- Center accepts donations for both men and women
“It was scary, it was terrifying. I felt alone,” said Romano.
At just 4 years old, she was repeatedly sexually abused by a family member, and as a young adult, she was raped in her home by a co-worker.
For years, she kept this a secret, until she became suicidal.
“One night I drank myself til I passed out and the next day I woke up and I just started screaming and crying, ‘I don’t want to die.’ And I’m broken. I need to be fixed,” Romano said.
So she called a crisis center— similar to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, where she is now a volunteer and victim advocate.
The center offers resources to victims of sexual assault, along with exams to collect evidence for a potential trial.
“We talked about the blood samples, the urine samples, all the different swabs, but clothing items can be taken as evidence as well?” Ashley Paul asked.
“Absolutely, and usually we have to take whatever clothing the individual comes in with. Because even if they maybe have changed clothes, there still could be evidence on the clothing they come in with,” Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, said.
In exchange, the center has a closet filled with clothing items from new bras and underwear, to shoes and shirts.
The closet is stocked by donations.
“We do about a rape a day, so we could always use donations of every size of every type to ensure that no victim has to go home in a scrub gown,” Reynolds said.
Romano never benefited personally from these donations, but she says a fresh pair of clothes can offer comfort in a time of vulnerability.
“It’s just a step closer to their healing, and in a sense, people are helping them heal by giving,” she said.
The center accepts donations for both men and women.
Any victim of sexual assault is encouraged to call 2-1-1 to be connected with services.