Paola Borella was born in south London to an English mother and Italian father. From age 4 she studied ballet, tap, modern and jazz dance, but an injury prevented her from pursuing it as a career. Paola is a linguist and speaks Italian, French and Spanish. Since obtaining her teaching certificate, she has worked as an English teacher in several countries: France, Italy, Spain, England, and most recently, China.
In life, a single event can be transforming, like an injured rose which blooms all the more triumphantly. While living in Italy, Paola grew close to several cousins who lived nearby. One evening, alone with one of them, she fell into a frightening situation. She was 25, but while being raped, Paola recalled a similar situation from childhood. The memories took some time to clarify, a process which was understandably disturbing.
During yearly visits to the family home in Italy, Paola’s father’s brother sexually abused her. The trauma lasted from when Paola was four, to the age of 16. In the later years, her younger female cousin was also involved in the abuse. At the age of 18, Paola attempted suicide, painfully upset, yet unaware of the source. Years later, at 27, she once again tried to take her life — but fortunately, she did not succeed. Now Paola regrets the attempts, as she believes life is precious, and she loves her current life!
Thanks to her father's encouragement, Paola sought help, and returned from Italy to England to see a counsellor. During this 8-month period, a great deal happened. Paola began writing poetry as a way of releasing her feelings. She went to the police to report the crime, though it had occurred years earlier. And perhaps most crucially, she confronted her abuser twice. This act was unbelievably empowering; now, Paola feels little fear and in fact, feels she can achieve whatever she aspires.
Paola now has a collection of 70 poems which describe her journey from childhood to adulthood. They are divided into two volumes: the first covers her initial healing process; the second, its effects on her adult life. She hopes these poems will provide inspiration and comfort to others, particularly abuse survivors. Currently, Paola is writing a self-help book to help other survivors gain awareness and closure on their situations.
In transforming her relationship to her past, Paola has discovered her true purpose, which is to help other people. In addition to her writing, Paola actively campaigns for the NSPCC and writes to MPs in the hope that more will be done to help children in need. She has both received support from survivors in the Pandy’s network (a forum for rape and sexual abuse survivors) and advised others in the group who have experienced similar situations.
Recently, Paola worked as a volunteer in an orphanage in Cambodia, a profoundly fulfilling experience. She was shocked to discover that over 50% of children in Cambodia are sexually abused, and she wants to help reverse this trend. Survivors tend to understand each other, and now that Paola has come through to the other side, she wants to use her insight to help the world.