Women struck by sexual violence told their stories last night at the Michigan League in a display of strength, survival and support.
The speak-out was part of a weeklong series of events sponsored by Take Back the Night, a group dedicated to educating the public about rape and other forms of sexual abuse. The campaign will culminate tomorrow in a march through Ann Arbor starting from the Diag.
With tears in her eyes and a cracking voice, an LSA senior, who wished not to be named because of the sensitive nature of her testimony, shared the story of how she survived more than seven years of sexual abuse.
From age 10 to 17, the LSA senior was continually raped by her uncle. The abuse did not end until she became pregnant at 16.
She said her uncle often slipped her a drug that made it difficult for her to wake up then came to her bed during the night.
“I woke up one night and he was there,” she said. “I thought I was dreaming and pushed (the thoughts) aside.”
Public Health student Ashley Brant, who helped organize the event, said she wanted to heighten public knowledge about rape and other forms of sexual violence.
“People don’t realize how often this occurs and the impact it has on people’s lives,” Brant said.
The student who was victimized said she is sometimes afraid of her male graduate student instructors and remains closed off from friends. But she says telling her story helped her start to recover.
Women from the community also attended the event, looking for a safe space to share their feelings and empower others to do the same.
A woman from Saline related a story about being raped in her home. She said the rapist entered her home and woke her up in the middle of the night.
“I kept talking to him, but he covered my face. I kept touching him and felt his clothes, anything I could grasp to identify him,” she said.
The man was later identified and finally brought to trial. He was sentenced to 90 years in prison. But the long, bureaucratic trial left her feeling even more like a victim, she said.
Several years after the rape, she said she still sleeps with a butcher knife.
“I still get angry because I can’t trust anyone,” she said.
But she said her sharing her experience might encourage other women do the same.
Take Back the Night is a national movement that began in 1978 to combat violence against women. Tomorrow’s rally will be its 26th at the University.