12-year-old tackles 'gross' problem
Friends of Kelsey Hirsch, 12, think talking about sexual violence is "gross." But the tween activist is undeterred.
June 21st, 2013
03:16 PM ET

12-year-old tackles 'gross' problem

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @CNNEmma

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

Kelsey Hirsch was 11 years old when her parents sat her down and told her about a scandal gripping their beloved alma mater. Charles Hirsch and his wife graduated from Penn State University and like many alumni, they felt a strong connection to the place. So when allegations surfaced that coach Jerry Sandusky abused boys in his care, the Hirsch's knew they'd need to explain the story to their children.

[1:25] "We made the decision as parents that it was important that our children knew first hand what was going on versus hearing it from their friends and kind of getting misinformation."

They explained what happened and how to spot red flags in her own community, they live just outside Atlanta. Kelsey listened, and couldn't imagine why someone would harm another person that way. She wanted to help.

[0:32] "I decided to do Bands for RAINN, " she says fiddling with one such blue and white band for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network on her own wrist.

Each band sells for $3. The proceeds help fund the RAINN online hotline, a resource for those impacted by sexual violence.

[0:50] "It helps them like feel like feel like survivors instead of victims," Kelsey says.

So far, the project has raised $18,000. That's enough to provide support to 1,800 survivors, Kathrine Hull a RAINN spokeswoman said. That's impressive for someone not yet in high school.

Hull also praises Kelsey's commitment to raise awareness. They call her frank pitch on the bracelets "a gamechanger." That's because sexual violence, though widespread, is still taboo.  That's something the pint-sized activist has run into.

[3:29] "Some people are just really horrible about it," she says. Some of her classmates, they ask her to stop talking about sexual violence entirely.  Why? "I just think that they feel uncomfortable about it. So like, they think it's gross."

But that's just the minority, she says, and she's not deterred. She's set a new goal of $100,000 which means a lot more talking. Her dad supports her the whole way.

[3:57] "I think Kelsey's right, the more you talk about it the better. It shouldn't be a taboo topic."

With each blue and white band and the sales pitch behind it they're chipping away at that taboo.

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soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Trevor Hitchin

    Keep up the Terrific work......keep talking about the monsters in the room.....keep putting them away. If one couragous teen can raise nearly $20k to help others....just think what 1 million caring Americans could achieve – despite the gridlock in Congress and obstructionistic behaviors of Boehner et al.... Report your abusers and help those who need support during recovery. Boise is riddled with sexual abuse nightmares and I live here. It is sad.

    June 30, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chris516

    While I agree with the Hirsch's talking to their children about the Penn State scandal, before they started hearing about it in the 'rumor mill', from their friend's at school. The part I don't agree with, is that, the Penn State scandal hasn't blown the fog out of the perception that, only females can be raped and abused. It is not unheard, for men to be raped in prison. So while RAINN is being touted positively, society still shoves, male abuse victims in the background. Like it isn't palatable for society to acknowledge male abuse victims/survivors via a poster or some other form of acknowledgement, equal to that shown to women. There are few if any shelters, specifically for men. Yet, There are countless shelters for women. Women demanded equality in society at-large. Men need to demand equality not only in child custody cases, but also in cases where the abuse survivor is male. Aileen Wuornos was executed in 2002. She was a serial murderer, and her 'victims' were almost always men. Yet tried to play the 'abused woman' card at trial. Until society acknowledges male abuse survivors, on an equal basis to female abuse survivors, Kelly Hirsch's campaign will be 'null and void'.

    June 28, 2013 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      Chris – did you know that The Paterno Foundation's specific mission is to bring awareness to the "good guy predator" and specifically help victims of Male /male sexual abuse? RAINN works with all victims and has tons of statistics about both male and female victims. Kelsey, just like RAINN, works with all victims.

      June 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. wildbill

    You go girl!

    June 26, 2013 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  4. nuclear mike

    ...anyway a 12 year old is way out of place in this whole mess of resolving adult issues about child abuse and raising money to empower the non-profits' corporate officers??? RAINN sounds like one of the non-profits where a few % points of the raised money goes to any real victim and $10 per victim won't do "squatt" except to mail them a brouchure. Sounds like RAINN found a steak of gold in this little girl's image to exploit.

    June 25, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      Nuclear. Do your research. RAINN spends 88% of revenues on the programs for victims and is regarded as one of the 100 top charities. Kelsey wasn't asked to do this for them, but rather asked to help. RAINN has been very careful to make sure they don't exploit her and have gone out of their way to support her.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • Gamma ray

        You mean 88% of profit...so after salaries, and running costs, 88% of the 15% of leftover funds are given.

        June 28, 2013 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
        • Charles

          Gamma – that's incorrect. $.88 of every dollar goes directly to helping victims and preventing sexual violence. Only $.12 is for management and fundraising.

          June 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. nuclear mike

    OK...let's see can anyone count the times the $$$ signs appeared in this blog about helping people as every tragedy now is directly associated with a money raising scheme to go help everyone with the donated monies to make them all feel about about themselves???
    Ever get the feeling that "money makes people more happy" so will someone please send me a few donations tomorrow so I can have a happy day for something someonelse did to someonelse????

    June 25, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Giancarlo Moscetti

    How young is 'too young'? Obviously one wouldn't tell an 8 year old the same things as a 12 year old, but where does one draw the line? I think it all depends on the overall maturity of the individual, we've all seen 14 year old kids who look and act more like 20 year old young adults. Tough issue, for sure.

    June 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neece

      I have mixed feelings about all this. I'm a survivor of this very topic and I educated my children at a very young age. Knowledge gives them power. How young is too young? To answer that question, we must ask ourselves how young is too young to have your innocence taken away. This is tough topic of conversation, but it’s a conversation we need to have. It’s unfortunate, but there are predators out there that do not give one thought to age. For myself, children are never too young to start educating them about bad people because let’s face it, there are a whole of bad people out there that have no problem preying our on young! Again, knowledge gives them power!!!! And I'm a firm believer in empowering my children.

      June 27, 2013 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. PhilTheThrill

    If they knew all the red flags, how come they couldn't spot Sandusky for 20 years?

    June 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mattk

      It's the Sergeant Schultz mentality of "I see NOTHING!"

      June 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. datruth

    is this a really appropriate topic for a 12 year old to be discussing with others?

    I wouldn't want my 12 year old to listen to graphic, violent sexual acts from another child.

    June 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emma496

      Sadly in todays society the 11 and 12 year old children WE were growing up vastly different. Its devastating the children cannot maintain the innocence they should have but we have to arm our children in a world of pedophiles and other sickos. I have a twelve year old daughter – and trust me – the stuff they learn about from school these days would stand your hair on end.

      June 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • some person

      You seem more bothered by the idea of young people discussing abuse than the fact that abuse is occurring. Your mindset of "children shouldn't discuss such things" doesn't stop children from being abused. What it DOES do, however, is discourage them from reporting that abuse.

      June 25, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • datruth

        They can discuss things all they want. What i'm saying is, if a child is intererested in violent sexual crimes committed against other children, that's a discussion to have WITH THEIR OWN PARENTS. Not some random little girl. I think its fantastic that shes raising money for worthy organizations. But someone should really explain to me how pounding these disgusting thoughts and images into the head of 6th graders does not "rob them of their innocence".

        June 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
        • some person

          Re-read the story. The quote, "We made the decision as parents that it was important that our children knew first hand what was going on versus hearing it from their friends and kind of getting misinformation" is attributed to the girl's parents, not the girl herself. She didn't start a "let's tell other kids about sexual crimes" club.

          June 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • pcobiwan

      I went through statutory rape at 12. My cousin was raped by her uncle at 10. I don't think it's too young.

      June 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • datruth

        Its not to young to talk about it, but talking to another child about it? Schools have both guidance and trauma counselors. Her intentions are admirable, but in reality, she knows nothing about the psychology behind rapists, pedophiles, child abuse, etc. Her brain is maybe 75% formed. She has no pre-frontal lobe. She is biologically inacapable of understanding actions vs consequences. I don't think a 6th grader should be explaining graphic sexual crimes to other children who come from normal families

        June 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jana

      What a completely stupid comment "datruth". Seems like you can't face DA TRUTH about the incest and rape of our young people. OMG and the more comments I read of yours, the more I'm convinced it's people like YOU that are part of the problem. Maybe we should just pray the raping of our children stops instead of actually opening dialogue and providing education.....because it's worked SO well.

      June 25, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • amused123

      You head is in the sand if you think your 11 and 12 year old are not hearing. Better to hear it from you the inaccurately on the street; wouldn't you think?

      June 25, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Amy

    $3 each, not $10.

    June 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      Amy...sorry for the confusion...$3 for a Bands4RAINN (store.rainn.org) and $10 to help a survivor (RAINN stats)

      June 25, 2013 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ignatzz

    This wonderful girl will do many great things, I think. Her level of self-confidence and commitment is off the scale for someone her age. Unfortunately, ADULTS are often uncomfortable talking about it, too. God bless her.

    A question about the numbers:

    "So far, the project has raised $18,000. That's enough to provide support to 1,800 survivors, "

    $10 each? That's doesn't sound right

    June 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      Ignatzz – those stats come directly from RAINN. It costs approximately $10 to fund the help necessary for one person on the RAINN online helpline. Kelsey's efforts have actually just passed $19,000 raised now. You can read more about her at http://www.bands4rainn.org

      June 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |