Don’t Grab My Pussy! welcomes sexual assault survivors & supporters’ voices through comedy, spoken word & song in Rochester by Shadi Kafi

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Don’t Grab My Pussy! December 8th at Skylark

In the heat of an emotional election, creator of Don’t Grab My Pussy! Kelsey Claire Hagen had enough.

“It’s the awfulness of our capitalistic economy.” Kelsey, a survivor of sexual assault, describes how defeating it is to see NFL players, movie stars and government officials get away with their crime even after admitting to it.  The crime of sexual assault can very easily be unnoticed because of the shame it puts on the victim.  As Kelsey says:

People dull down the situation and think it could have been avoided. Unless the victim chooses to come out and feels safe to do so, they never get the chance to see that their feelings are normal among other victims.

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Kelsey Claire Hagen, Don’t Grab My Pussy! creator & comedian

Kelsey volunteers at RESTORE with Planned Parenthood. RESTORE leads the community response to sexual violence through advocacy and education, by providing the safety, support and validation that changes the lives of all those affected.  For Kelsey, RESTORE validates her feelings and defines rape more clearly:

Females who are outspoken and comfortable talking about sex are targeted as being sluts. Convincing yourself others are wrong takes education like the training at RESTORE. Before RESTORE training I was telling myself, ‘chill out, it wasn’t a big deal!’

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Madeleine Smith, headliner

Comedy Headliner Madelein Smith explains, “Don’t Grab My Pussy! took a different turn after the election when there was a palpable fear that services like Planned Parenthood and RESTORE would be taken away.”

And the results were impressive. For Don’t Grab My Pussy!, 180 people gathered at Skylark Lounge on Thursday December 8th, the largest crowd I have ever seen at any event in Rochester. The event raised $3,300 for RESTORE, $1,415 alone donated on event night.

Don’t Grab My Pussy! artists began with an explicit poem, “My mother said it was easier not to fight,” from writer Delaney Mclemore about her abusive father.

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Penny Sterling, comedian

Following Delaney were comedians Andrea Springer and Shannon Dawn who were shaking the crowd into roaring laughter.

Penny Sterling, a transgender female, brought seriousness back to the stage with her monologue, “What’s Normal Now?”

Penny described a vicious verbal and physical attack while travelling as transgender with her daughter in public for the first time. At a coffee stop station, Penny is told, “Well, if ya can’t see that, ya really do need coffee. I can’t wait for Trump to be president, ‘cuz then we can take care of the maggots and faggots like you.”

Penny describes the irony of a joyous occasion turned to trauma so quickly. A sentiment many survivors can relate to, feeling safe with this person and then dramatically shifting into a completely different fucked-up dimension of hopelessness.

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Hardwood

“When I told my oldest son who’s a cop,” Penny continues in her monologue, “he asked me why I didn’t file a report. I gave him a bunch of lame excuses why I didn’t, and he gave me one or two reasons why I should have, but the fact of the matter is the reason I didn’t report him was because I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that I didn’t see it coming.” She continues to the end, “This too, is what’s normal now,” as she reflects on lessons she can teach her daughter with deeper understanding.

Harwood, a female musical comedy duo created by Hannah Weidner and Kara Maillie, took the stage, leading the audience with a unique country-style rhythmical dance and chant of Don’t Grab My Pussy! that lasts in our heads through the drive home and all this week. Beyond their comedy was a truthful message of a need for females to be defined as humans in relationship to themselves with full ownership of their minds, voices and bodies as opposed to as mothers, daughters and wives.

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Yolanda Smilez, comedian

Comedian Yolanda Smilez next took the stage with her raw, female, dominatrix poise making sexual propositions to men in the audience. Although some could call this hypocritical, statistics show 90% of adult rape victims are female and 3% are male with male offenders. rainn.org/statistics/victims sexual violence

Feature Comedian Marianne Sierk made fun of the exhaustion being a mother, raging about MILF night at the strip club where even there she has to pick up after everyone.

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Marianne Sierk, featured comedian

Headliner Madeleine Smith, ended the night with an empowering message for women: “You can be whatever or whoever you want to be and there is a strong, supportive community in Rochester and we have your back.”

Kelsey has big plans for the future. She is taking the show on the road to Buffalo and Pittsburgh making it clear, “This show is for everyone. It’s for men who have been sexually assaulted who sympathize with women, bisexual women, gay men and anyone transgender.” She also wants to include college students who are often victims by making it an 18 and up event.

The openness for intersex collaboration means welcoming males like 27-year-old Jordan Dube looking for a supportive community. Being a survivor himself, Jordan says:

RESTORE needs the support of community and the support of men as well. There needs to be a space for women that doesn’t have men take the spotlight. We need to say ‘yes’ we see your pain and your pain does not scare me.

We will see more from Kelsey, a true gift to our Rochester community and from others like Jordan who are inspired by Don’t Grab My Pussy! to lead a men’s group while continuing to support women.

Whether it’s through comedy, music and song, gaining understanding from a listening friend or a google search leading to educational support groups like RESTORE, the message of Don’t Grab My Pussy! in Rochester is “We got your back!”

An inspiration to communities everywhere.

SEE ALSO

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