#MeToo giving Tampa Bay area victims courage to speak up about sexual harassment and abuse

#MeToo campaign: How to spot sexual harassment
Posted at 12:49 AM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-18 07:17:43-04

The viral hashtag #MeToo on social media starting out among celebrities and slowly trickled down to the Tampa Bay area. Women and men are sharing their stories of sexual harassment and abuse.

Rena Romano knows the common questions that fill a victims head after hart as many or abuse. 

“Who was I going to tell? Who is going to believe you?" said Romano. "I was abused as a child for almost 2 decades.”

She says was raped by a co-worker years later and sexually harassed by their boss. It took years for Romano to talk about it.

“They say secrets make you sick, well mine was almost lethal,” Romano said, talking about the moment she began feeling suicidal. 

But once Romano did start talking she couldn't stop. It was therapeutic for her.

Romano even wrote a book and spoke about it on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It is also why she says the #MeToo campaign is promising.

"We're telling them okay. It’s okay now to speak your truth because were tired of being ashamed of a crime we didn’t commit," Romano says. "We’re tired of being silent."

"There’s so much isolation, stigma, so much self blame,” said Clara Reynolds, the CEO of the Crisis Center Tampa Bay.

Reynolds,says that's why many women remain quiet, controlled by power and fear of retaliation.

A new poll by ABC News and the Washington Post found more than half of U.S. women have experienced unwanted sexual advances. Eight our of ten say it rose to the level of sexual harassment and one third of them say it turned into sexual abuse. 

“When we say things like it’s just Joe being Joe, that continues to proliferate this myth that is it’s OK,” said Reynolds. “That you have permission to speak however you want to regardless of how it makes other people feel."

Sexual harassment comes in many forms. Reynolds says an e-mail, picture or inappropriate comment that is sexual in nature and makes you feel uncomfortable or intimated should be reported.

“Come on, it has to stop,” said Romano. “We are your mothers, your sisters, your wives, your grandmothers we are being harassed. It has to stop.” 

If you are too afraid to speak up or need to talk to someone, the Crisis Center Tampa Bay is ready to talk to you. If you need advice on how to address a situation, the organization has representatives that will role play scenarios with you to help you better relay your message.