St. Pete gathers for "Take Back the Night"

Posted at 10:54 PM, Apr 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-30 23:27:27-04
A silent march around North Straub Park in St. Pete was an empowering one Saturday.  It's part of the message from domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and their families, of standing in solidarity to end the violence hurting so many families across Tampa Bay.

"It lets survivors know they're not alone, and lets them know we support them, that we believe them, and it really celebrates their strength and resiliency," said Amanda Brennan, sexual assault victim advocate with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

Rena Romano is one of those strong survivors.  She endured sexual abuse as both a child and as an adult.

"I just had to survive.  I just had to go through each day.  Each time I was assaulted, I had to get through it.  I knew that their was something better for me," said Romano.

She now finds that better place in sharing her story with others.  During the "Take Back the Night" event, she stressed the importance of victims coming forward to tell someone and getting help before it's too late.

"Shame, and when we hold our secrets in, it's a killer.  Literally, shame can kill us," said Romano.

There are dozens of community resources to help victims in their hour of need, and Romano also says everyone must do their part to help end domestic violence and sexual assault.

"If you see something that's happening, intervene.  Call the police.  Do whatever you can.  We can't be silent about this any longer.  We have to stop these crimes from happening, because it could happen to your loved one or mine," Romano said.

Romano also believes there's strength in numbers, and she feels stronger every time she tells her story and her secret to not letting her attackers ruin her life.

"Happy is the best revenge.  I didn't get justice in a court of law for what happened to me.  So instead, I'm living a happy, healthy, productive life," said Romano.

ABC Action News is committed to taking action against domestic violence and sexual assault.  If your or someone you know needs help, call the state hotline at 1-800-500-1119 and check out a list of resources here: