TAMPA, Fla. - Being in the pageant and modeling world for close to a decade, Lisa Patel knows a thing or two about the pressures of the entertainment industry.
“It’s just something that’s super hard to deal with,” she said.
Patel currently holds the title of Tampa’s Perfect Woman and was Miss Florida Galaxy 2016 and Miss North Carolina 2012.
She has had her moments of someone promising her a big break.
“He was trying to get me to fly out to New York and try to put me in front of Victoria Secret producers,” she said. “There was a point in the conversation when he told me I needed to be open minded and go with the flow.”
Patel did not “go with the flow.”
But for others, there is help.
“We need to stop as a society blaming victims and questioning them and really try to connect them to the help they deserve,” said Ken Gibson, director of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
The crisis center has treated more than 350 sexual assault victims in Hillsborough County within the past year, but they estimate that’s only about a third of actual amount of assaults taking place.
Internalizing it, or not telling anyone until years later, can have lasting effects, Gibson said.
“It really could impact their job or relationships,” he said. “It could be the reason they start substance abuse. That trauma that doesn’t get treated can impact their entire life.”
Patel recently launched a promotional marketing company called The Agency, hiring models and entertainers to be brand ambassadors.
Her message to them is to stay true to themselves.
“You don’t need that million-dollar job just because you have to sacrifice who you are to get to that point,” she said. “It’s not worth it at the end of the day. Not only are you going to feel guilty but down the road you’re hurting yourself.”
Sexual assault victims in Tampa Bay can receive free help by dialing 211, which includes free crisis counseling and access to more than 4,000 community resources.