Kimberia Sherva is the Fridley resident who was an organizer of SlutWalk Minneapolis, a march against sexual violence and in support of the victims of sexual violence.
As a survivor of rape/molestation she felt the need to reach out to the young men involved in the Penn State fiasco.
The following is from the SlutWalk Minneapolis blog. One word has been changed so as not to offend sensibilities. The original can be found here.
I know I’m going to cry as I write this but that’s OK.
There have been plenty of reactions to the whole Penn State fiasco. But for me, as a survivor, my first thought wasn’t of the Head Coach or the University President or anyone else.
My first thought was of the young gentlemen, the eight boys, who were survivors of assault.
And my second thought was for their families.
And my third thought was and is unprintable as I learn even more information, as I see that people rioted when the firings were made public, as I gazed at my own two sons and tears welled up in my eyes.
And then … then I got mad.
So this post is to the young gentlemen because I don’t give a flying ---- about the adults in this scenario. Other than the boys’ families, of course.
Dear young gentlemen:
Hey, there. If you’d let me, I’d hug you. I’d give you a fierce Momma Bear hug and rub your back, and look into your eyes and smile. I’d tell you that you are wonderous and worthy. I’d let you see that I understand everything. And that I’d listen to whatever you have to say. But let me say a few things to you, from one survivor of molestation to another.
It wasn’t your fault. I know you might have heard this before but I want to let you know, it wasn’t your fault. See, you were attacked by a predator, and unless you know what one IS (and sometimes, you don’t), you can’t see the forest for the trees. In other words, predators are sneaky. They know what to say and what to do to gain your trust. I know. Mine did. They take their time to get to know you and to slowly invade your boundaries. A smart predator preys on the weaknesses of his or her victims. You didn’t do anything wrong. This person, who you trusted and looked up to, did everything wrong.
It’s OK if it felt good. The really messed up thing that can happen sometimes is that bodies respond even when the situation is horrific. I know that when I was molested, at first, it felt good. My body responded to the touches and the kisses, and while a large part of me was screaming, there was that part of me that liked the feeling. Boy, did that mess me up for a while. I mean, how awful was I that I liked being touched? That it felt good a little bit? No one explained to me that my physical response was OK. That my body responded even when my heart was exploding into little pieces. I wasn’t dirty. I wasn’t a bad person. And I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t ask for it.
Consensual sex isn’t at all like this. Here’s the thing, lads. You are young men who were coerced into sexual acts. That was wrong. The dynamics of power were so one sided. Consensual sex is about sharing sex with everyone being OK with it. Truly OK with it. I know that if given the choice, I’d much rather not have been put into the situation where my first sexual experience was me being used. I understand if you might say, ‘but I said OK. So it was OK.’ I’m not going to insult you and say you’re a child but I will say that any healthy adult wouldn’t twist things so that it seems like it’s OK when really? It wasn’t.
There are people who support you. I know that you’ve seen the people protesting against the decisions of the University and I don’t know about you but it makes me feel small. I can’t tell you how you feel but when I saw all those people supporting the decision to hide the sexual abuse, I was in turns outraged, sad, scared, and numb. I felt like a child again, I felt helpless again, and I spent some time reminding myself that I am NOT helpless and that I’m not that child anymore. Still. Ouch. I want you to know that there are a lot of people who support you and who think of you. More than you can possibly know.
Talk to someone about what happened to you. It’s really hard, I know. Telling was so hard for me. I had been told to ‘keep it a secret.’ I had been told that awful things would happen if I told anyone. I kept it a secret for a long time, and the awful things that happened were that I was hurt so much deep inside…and the person who molested me got to act as though nothing was wrong. That’s not right. So talk to a therapist who understands everything you’re feeling. It’s OK to be angry and sad and hurt and confused. It’s OK to want to yell and punch things and push people away. It’s OK to cry. Really. I know you’re tough guys and all that but it’s OK to cry. It helps.
It’s NOT your fault. I don’t care what excuses your abuser said, it is NOT your fault. You are NOT to blame. And I know that people are having kitten fits right now and that’s just too damn bad. They don’t understand that if a person knows that something wrong is happening and does nothing about it, then that person is just as guilty. We call it complicity, us big adults but it really means that the person who should have done something about it messed up BIG time. It was time to pay up. I know you’ve been taught about actions and consequences. This is all about that. It was time to pay up. It is NOT your fault.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that everything is going to magically get OK. Anything worth doing takes time and hard work. Healing takes time and hard work and boy, does it suck sometimes. It’s like playing your favourite video game and trying to beat the boss at the end. Or like playing in the region finals for one of your sports. It’s hard and it’s messy sometimes, and I know you want to throw in the towel and give up. Walk away. I know for me, I’ve wanted to say, ‘I’m DONE. I’m THROUGH. Kiss my butt.’ But some stubborn part of me has said, ‘nope. I’m not giving up on me.’ Don’t give up on you.
And finally, being molested, being sexually assaulted doesn’t own you. It doesn’t make you any less of a person. It certainly doesn’t become you. It’s like….like a part of you, but it doesn’t define you. In other words, you’re not ‘that boy who was molested.’ OK, a part of you, sure. That is you. It happened and so it is. But you are more than that, see? You’re the boy who is strong and loving and smart and athletic. You’re the boy who has mad skills when it comes to video games or skateboarding or throwing a football or sinking a free throw. You’re the boy who likes raucous music or nods your head to some hooks or breaks some moves. You’re the boy with dreams and wishes and goals. Don’t let anyone get away with defining you, putting you in a box, and labeling you. Don’t let yourself do the same. You are the future. You are unwritten. You are potential.
If I could, if you’d let me, I’d hug you gently. I understand if you don’t want to be touched. I still have a hard time, sometimes, being touched by people who I love. That’s OK. In time, you’ll be all right with being hugged and touched again.
I’d tell you it gets better. It does. Some days, it’s hard. And some days, you feel like you went backwards instead of forwards. And that’s OK, too. But it does get better, slowly but surely.
I send you my care and support and understanding. I stand in solidarity with you, as a fellow survivor.
Be good to yourself. Be gentle and be kind to you. It’ll be OK. And don’t ever forget that you are NOT to blame. You’re not the guilty one and you have NOTHING to be ashamed of…the blame and the guilt and the shame belongs to the predator who abused your trust and your body. Don’t ever forget.