It took Suzan Early 20 years to share a story she thought was too dark to tell.
â??Maybe if I laid here and pretend to be sleeping, he'd go away. I wasn't that lucky,â?? Early recalled Wednesday. The memories of being raped as a 12-year-old runaway still sting today.
â??There were five of them and all of them took their turn with me,â?? she described.
The now 32-year-old University of Michigan-Flint student found strength in a room full of her sorority sisters, faculty and other students who listened and vowed to be a part of the solution to a problem that affects 2 in every 5 women in Michigan - sexual violence.
"Even though I know it really wasn't my fault, I still held that guilt and that shame inside of me, because I felt like it was my fault,â?? Early explained, after Wednesdayâ??s event.
Early led a march through the streets of downtown Flint with members of Theta Phi Alpha, staff from the Womenâ??s Educational Center and other students.
â??Claim our bodies, claim our right; take a stand, take back the night,â?? they chanted.
Ronnie Prince-Jones took an oath of his own â?? with a group of other men at the event - and says men play a critical role in helping women break the silence.
"My mother was a victim of domestic violence so it kind of hit home a little,â?? Prince-Jones said.
Perhaps it hit home for people who heard the chants downtown, chants that challenged the statistics behind sexual violence, denounced hatred and demanded safe streets for everyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men nationwide have been raped at some time in their lives, but sexual violence includes anything from unwanted touching to forcible rape.
UM-Flintâ??s Women's Educational Center offers a number of resources for people who experienced sexual violence. Click here or visit http://www.umflint.edu/wec/ for more information.