GILBERT, AZ - Friends Jaclyn Romero and Mary Rush only met two months ago, but instantly felt a deep connection.
"I wish that I would have met Jaclyn sooner, because she's helped me so much,” said Mary.
Both women, each now happily married with kids, have a dark past that not until recently was brought to light.
“I was a victim of date rape,” said Jaclyn, speaking about that terrible incident ten years ago. “I went out with some friends, met somebody, and unfortunately ended up in a bad situation.”
Her friend, Mary, says she was molested by her stepdad for years. “I hid it from everybody, because I was ashamed, and I thought I was doing something wrong.”
Now, they’re using their own stories of survival to empower other victims of sexual assault.
“I didn’t know where to turn, I didn’t know who to talk to,” said Jaclyn. “I knew I could probably go to a counselor, probably go to a psychologist, but I didn’t really feel comfortable doing that.”
That’s why Jaclyn started ROAR – which stands for Reaching Out After Rape – and offers a safe place to connect with others who’ve endured abuse.
“I feel for a lot of survivors who haven’t come forward, and they’re holding all this information in,” said Mary.
ROAR offers group support, yoga classes, meditation, and legal workshops, among other things.
“The key is to speak out, come forward, and don’t be afraid,” said Jaclyn. “You’re not alone.”
Jaclyn and Mary have learned from their own friendship that talking with another survivor is a great place to start.