From the Author:
Kimleigh Smith and Jon Snow have been given the gift of being able to tell their stories of sexual abuse in the format of a one-person play. In this play, both Kimleigh and Jon tell their stories, make themselves completely vulnerable, and bare their souls to share their ideas of healing with victims everywhere. Victims do have a voice! And through the Be Your Own Superhero Foundation, Kimleigh and Jon walk victims through the process of creating their own story. I cannot express strongly enough the strength and empowerment that this process can bring to a victim of abuse. It also allows the victim to release the burden that they have been carrying ever since the abuse occurred. For many, this could encompass many years! And, the tentacles of this abuse can reach far and wide in the lives of the victims affecting relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
The format and approach of Be Your Own Superhero is straightforward. Kimleigh and Jon share their stories so that victims know that they are one of them. They have suffered as you have suffered. They know what you are feeling and understand your pain. They understand the guilt, the self-deprecation, the self loathing, all of the things that have no right to reside in your heart and mind, yet, somehow, they find a residence there.
Their events are usually held over a weekend at a local university. I want to encourage everyone that is in the local area of one of their events to attend. If you are interested in having one of these events in your local area, contact Kimleigh or Jon through their website and they will take care of the details! These weekend events have workshops that will help you in the healing process. If you want to know if there is one taking place close to you, please message Jon Snow directly for a schedule. I truly believe in what these two are doing and I genuinely feel that this will help victims of sexual abuse to grow beyond the place of hopelessness that many may find themselves entrenched in. Below is a link to a short video that talks about Kimleigh and her show called TOTALLY! This will give you an idea of what Jon and Kimleigh are doing with this foundation. Jon’s story will begin below this link.
It is with a strangely surprising trepidation that I write this. I did not expect so much resistance in myself, yet, nevertheless, here I am sitting with this odd feeling. I have so much to tell, and with each step, I find myself getting closer and closer to a nightmare I never thought I would have to face. It is little wonder then, I suppose, why I have all of this balled up tension in me as I write this, and still I find this tension a comfortable stranger.
I will do my best to be succinct with the story I am going to unfold for you. Please forgive any transgressions that betray that intention.
I am (was?) a product of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. My father moved us to Hammond when I was about 5 or 6 years old, if my memory serves me. It was his goal and dream to attend and graduate from Hyles-Anderson College. My father worked very hard to make this happen. We started off living in the Meadows Apartments across the railroad tracks, just a few blocks from the church itself. I have since been back to visit, and I have walked through the Meadows Apartments, which I believe has a different name these days, and I was struck by the severity of poverty that pervades this place.
I knew, even then, we didn’t have money growing up. One cannot grow up and not eventually realize these things. As a five year old boy, I didn’t have that awareness so acutely, so I cannot recall if the Meadows apartment complex was always such a place of destitution or not. I remember my father worked hard as a janitor for the Meadows as he began his endeavors with Hyles-Anderson. Having two small children and a wife for whom to provide, my father did the best he could to provide for his family, it was this obligatory commitment that caused him to take 7 years to get his degree.
During this time, I was there at FBC, just like every good Fundamentalist, every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and I even helped out on the bus routes. I helped with Mrs. Moffit’s bus route, number 32, if I remember correctly. We were completely immersed in the church and all its capacities. My sister and I attended the church’s school in Schererville, so we spent our young lives inside that bubble, and like so many others, we knew no other world. In fact, there was no other world.
I am amazed, even if I should not be, at the more recent events at FBC. I clearly remember, as a young boy, Jack Hyles, the current pastor at that time, making an appearance on Current Affair to repudiate the allegations that he had been having an affair. I remember my parents conviction that Jack Hyles was innocent and that people were attacking a godly man because that’s what the world does to godly men.
I remember standing outside Jack Hyles’ office as a young boy, my sister and I awaiting our chance to meet him. We carried a big bag of popcorn with us that night. We loved my mother’s popcorn, and we thought he would too. We were so poor that we carried it to him in empty bread bags. It was not a part of our conscious thought to be embarrassed by this, we just knew that we loved this man because we all loved this man, and loving this man was just what you did.
When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my sister, a year and a half younger, and I were raped by a young man that was charged with babysitting us. It was only one night. He had never babysat for us before, and he never did again after this night, but not because he was found out. He simply only ever had the opportunity for one night, and he made the most of that evening.
For years, I felt that he was much older. Only within the last 5 years or so did I discover that he was only about 12 or 13 when he did this to us.
My relationship to these events is simple enough to explain. As a young man, I was extremely angry. I wanted to hunt him down and kill him for what he did to us. Then, as I grew up, I moved into a place, not devoid of anger by any means, but I moved into a place of just wanting to be sure that he did not work with children in any way. Again, as I continued to grow and mature into a man, I moved into a place of forgiveness. I realized that he had probably been abused himself. I convinced myself that he must have just been twisted in his thinking as a result of the abuse that surely befell him as well. It was easy then to see him as a confused and scared young man acting out in a manner that screamed for help and attention.
My sister and I haven’t spoken of this incident in many years, which, to be clear, when we did speak about it, it was only sporadic and quickly at best.
There is, and was, a lot of pain surrounding this, which is not so conducive to prolonged conversation. Yet, here we are.
I tell you all of this because my sister followed in my father’s footsteps. She went to and graduated from Hyles-Anderson College, and she is now a missionary in (country intentionally omitted), where she has been for the last 14 years. As a result, my sister has been an insider to a myriad of things of FBC nature.
As it pertains to this situation, my sister has recently been telling me of the many cover-ups that have occurred at FBC over the years. It was shocking and not so shocking all at the same time.
The thing that disturbed me most was something she said about the young man that raped us when we were children. She informed me that a friend of hers, that also attended Hyles-Anderson, told her, while they were in college together, that her brothers and our perpetrator were part of a group of boys, all of whom went to FBC, and who also held competitions to see how many younger kids they could rape.
As you can undoubtedly understand, this sent red flags flying up all over the place. It is one thing to be a victim and to be confused and act out, but it is another thing entirely, when you purposely set out to rape as many younger children as you can in a competitive scenario.
I decided to look up the man that raped us. I remembered his name, as if I could forget it. I feel like I have done this in the past to no avail, but this time, I found him.
Finding him was, in and of itself, more terrifying then I would have given it credit for being. But to make matters more acutely intense, I found that he is, and has been for several years now, working with boys. He is a baseball coach for a boys baseball team in Illinois. If that wasn’t enough to make my worst nightmare come to life, this baseball team of his is a traveling team. They travel all over the region to play games. A sexual predator couldn’t ask for much better accommodations.
I want to be very clear. I have no need or desire for justice for myself or my sister. What happened to us is 30 years old. We have found our ways to making peace for ourselves. Neither one of us cares about trying to get any vengeance. We are fine with where we stand as adults.
I cannot, however, given the nature of the FBC atmosphere, nor the circumstances in which this man now finds himself, sit idly by and do nothing. It is of the utmost importance to me that this man be checked out to ensure that he is not perpetrating these same atrocities on the young men who now look up to him and call him coach. However, I haven’t a clue as to how to make this a reality.
I have written to the Attorney General’s office of Illinois, but it has, thus far, been to no avail. I have heard nothing in response. I do not know where to turn, nor what to do. I am asking for help. I just know that I could not live with myself if some time in the future a boy stands with the courage to accuse this man, and I knew I could have done something to stop it sooner.
Let me be very clear, it is unequivocally my hope, that this man is innocent. I do not desire to harm him, his wife or his children. I want more than anything for this man to be innocent. I also cannot ignore the past.
Recently, I have been tapped to join a foundation that helps those who have been victimized by sexual assault tragedies. In so doing, I have written a one-man show about my experience. This show has had me digging deeper and deeper into feelings and memories which I have long forgotten, or at least attempted to forget. This has also led to a very emotional, albeit very healing, conversation with my sister about this situation.
It is very apparent to me now that many people need this story. Far too many of us sit around wishing and praying and hoping that things will be different. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we hopelessly pray for a time machine to go back and make it all different. Obviously, we cannot do this.
It is far too easy to sit and relive the past. It is a vicious whirlpool of emotion and thought that can suck us down into feelings of self-pity, despair, depression, anger and resentment, and here we can, if we so choose, live for the rest of our lives. But what sort of life is it when we make that choice?
There is another way. People sometimes think I’m crazy to have forgiven and found compassion for the person that did this to me. I think it’s crazy not to.
It’s simply a matter of choice. We can choose to hold on to the hate, the anger, the resentment at having our innocence destroyed, or we can also choose compassion and forgiveness. I grant you that finding compassion and forgiveness is harder in the short term, but holding on to anger, hatred or fear will gnaw away at your heart and mind until it finds a way to literally destroy your physical body.
Can you really choose forgiveness and compassion for something so horrible? People question me all the time, most of them unable to comprehend such an act in light of the circumstances. I tell them it’s only the hardest thing in the world until you see how easy and necessary making that choice is. I didn’t choose forgiveness and compassion because I thought my perpetrator deserved it. I didn’t do it because it was the “right” thing to do. I’m not a saint. I chose forgiveness and compassion for ME. I didn’t choose it for him, for his benefit. It was for ME.
I deserve to live my life free of the burden of his transgressions. Those transgressions are his, not mine, so why would I choose to carry his burden through my life? Life presents us with many challenges, and we have enough with which to contend for ourselves.
You deserve to be free. The choice is yours, and it is your gift to yourself. In fact, it is the only key, the only elixir, the panacea that you need to be whole and healthy again.
As victims of sexual abuse and assault we don’t want to just survive. We don’t want to just be alive! We want whole, happy, healthy lives! We want healthy sexual relationships with the person with whom we choose to spend the rest of our lives!
The power is within you! It is within all of us. It took many years, but I have finally found my voice. We all have a voice. It is time to use yours.