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Waterbury police sergeant speaks out about being a victim of sexual assault

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) - It happened when she was a teenager.

Renee Harvey, who's now a sergeant with the Waterbury Police Department, said a family member sexually assaulted her.

Here's how she reacted when News 8 asked her to describe a picture of herself taken when she was 17:

"I see a girl trying to hide fear," she said. "That's a little lost and, even though she's smiling, there are tears behind the smile."

In many respects, she's managed to move on from that trauma.

After it happened, she became a U.S. Marine "to become powerful," she said. She also became a sergeant in the Waterbury Police Department, giving back to the community where she grew up

"Because I wanted to be able to help those or get them the help that I never received," she said. "I wanted to be able to help other people get the justice I never got."

After she got up the courage to tell her mother what was happening, her family member was sent away to live with other relatives. 

But the ordeal took its toll.

"There have been a lot of years that I ignored and pretended what happened to me didn't happen to me just to make the pain go away -- that really didn't work," she said.

Sgt. Harvey said she knew this news would shock many people she knows, like colleagues on the police force.

"I'm a survivor of sexual assault and not many people, at least until now, knew that," she said.

Related Content: Helping sexual assault survivors -- a Naugatuck non-profit is on a mission

But, she wanted to speak out because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and she wanted to try and serve and protect others out there who may have experienced a similar trauma in their lives.

Sgt. Harvey wanted them to know there is help out there. She knows because she got help dealing with her own situation.

She admitted that it wasn't easy -- especially given her career path as an ex-Marine and police sergeant.

"The biggest issue that I've had since my ordeal was being vulnerable," she said.

But, she found comfort talking with a group in Naugatuck called Jane Doe No More -- a group of sexual assault survivors helping each other by talking, listening, and believing.

"Feeling vulnerable is such a scary feeling and we all experience it," said Donna Palomba, Founder of Jane Doe No More, and a survivor of sexual assault herself. "Especially after the traumas that we have faced."

Sgt. Harvey said the group has helped her so much, that she has become one of 55 local survivors of sexual assault in the program who now helps other victims who are just starting to come forward.

Palomba said she's proud of how far Sgt. Harvey has come and she's proud of her need to serve and protect others.

"I see a beautiful, brave, and courageous warrior," Palomba said.

Anyone who needs help dealing with sexual assault can get more information from Jane Doe No More by clicking here.


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