Helping sexual assault survivors — a Naugatuck non-profit is on a mission

New Haven

The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have forced the issue of sexual assault into the national spotlight.

Last week’s emotional testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, brought up painful memories for sexual assault survivors in the greater Waterbury area.

“I was sexually abused for multiple years when I was a child,” one woman said.

“I was sexually assaulted by a man whose children I babysat for after school,” said another woman.

Those two women are sexual assault survivors who volunteer their time at a Naugatuck non-profit called Jane Doe No More. The goal of Jane Doe No More is to allow sexual assault survivors to have a forum to get together to talk about what happened to them and to use power in numbers to help each other heal.

“We have a group of people here who understand us and support us and it’s always a safe place to come no matter what,” a group member said.

Another mission at Jane Doe No More is to empower victims to seek help or to come forward and to reach out to various community groups and schools to educate people there about sexual violence and how that behavior could effect someone who was attacked.

The non-profit was started by Donna Palomba, who was raped 25 years ago in Waterbury.

Related Content: Kellyanne Conway says she is a victim of sexual assault

“A masked armed intruder broke into our home, I was sleeping in my bed,” Donna said. “I was overcome. A pillowcase pulled over my head. My hands tied behind my back. And the perpetrator cut my clothing and raped me.”

And at first, no one believed her — including the police.

“The lieutenant in charge of my case put me in a small interrogation room and read me Miranda rights and threatened me with arrest,” Donna said.

After all of these years, Donna says it’s still hard to talk about — it still haunts her. But, she has also managed to turn her agony into something powerful to help others. Donna created Jane Doe No More to provide an environment where sexual assault survivors are now the ones speaking out to community groups and encouraging other survivors to come forward — people who at one time felt powerless now feel powerful.

“And I think seeing Donna – it just gives all of us a little of her fire,” a group member said.

They say because of Donna, they’ve all been able to find their strength again. And they hope something good can come out of the confirmation hearings — no matter what side of the political aisle you stand.

“Hopefully it makes it possible for other survivors who are silent to feel encouraged to make their voice heard,” one survivor said. 

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