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Wounded to warrior — A woman's story of resilience after years of sexual abuse

Dine Out For Safety event supports survivors of sexual assault
Sexual assault survivor
Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 16, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucsonan Danielle Barto was 3 years old when she was first sexually abused.

By the time she was 7, she had been abused by seven people, all those known and trusted by her family.

And it continued throughout her childhood into early adult life.

“I experienced date rape and then checking out the bar scene, I got roofied and assaulted," Barto recalled. "So I just had these traumas that just kept repeating.”

Barto struggled to cope with it all. Traditional talk therapy and various medications weren't working for her. She said it was more like a "band-aid on a hemorrhaging wound.”

“The anxiety became severe, panic attacks and major depression to the point where I had multiple suicide attempts," she said.

It wasn’t until her own kids reached the age at which she herself had experienced her worst abuse that she realized she needed help.

That’s when she found the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA), a group that provides therapy, advocacy services and other resources to survivors.

“I really didn’t know there were resources out there for me until I was almost 30," Barto said. "I was able to get free counseling at a time where I didn’t have the resources to pay for it...and really make leaps and bounds in my healing.”

SACASA is hosting its 25th annual Dine Out For Safety event on Wednesday, April 17. When you eat at participating restaurants, they’ll donate a portion of their proceeds to the foundation.

Barto believes events like this help break down the stigma of talking about abuse.

Sexual abuse is cyclical. If it doesn't get healed it gets passed on.

“When you’re in the thick of it and really hurting, it feels like it’s always going to be that way," she explained. "But it is possible to break free. It is possible to live a fulfilling life, be happy and at peace and…whole.”

For a full list of participating restaurants, read more on KGUN 9: Dine Out for Safety in support of sexual assault survivors Wednesday, April 17

Mikenzie Hammel joined the KGUN 9 team as a multimedia journalist in the summer of 2023. She graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. With her passion for human connection and visual storytelling, Mikenzie is honored to share the stories of Tucson and southeastern Arizona. Share your story ideas and important issues with Mikenzie by emailing mikenzie.hammel@kgun9.com.