Ending the silence on sexual abuse

Paul “the Ripples guy” Wesselman, a survivor of sexual abuse, helped to break the silence on rape and sexual violence against women through the “Take Back the Night” event on Tuesday.

The Torch had the opportunity to interview Wesselman prior to the event concerning his message to students.


Torch:Where does you message for the event come from?

Wesselman: My message comes with experiences from working on college campuses and my experience with people who are survivors of sexual violence.

I myself am a survivor of sexual abuse. The four things that I will talk about is what survivors of sexual abuse lose, what they give up, what they gain and how they can use anger and hope as tools of opportunity.

Torch:Do you feel like you really connect with the students?

Wesselman: I feel very blessed, I have a really good connection.

I’m not interested in telling people what they should hear, I’m interested in telling them what comes from the heart. Many students are lectured every day and are told how to think and feel, I don’t do that.

Torch: Have you written any books or do you plan on writing any books?

Wesselman: I am not an author. So many people in my line of work write a book, but I never felt a calling to do that. I spend two or three hours a day on Facebook and that is how I get my message around.

I posted this yesterday on my Facebook  wall ,”What supportive words would you have for sexual assault/abuse survivors and their allies as they gather at vigils across the country to TAKE BACK THE NIGHT?” and  dozens of my friends commented and responded. I will be able to use their responses tonight at my speech.

When I get up and give a speech and say, “So I asked my 5,000 Facebook friends..” it immediately credentials me with college students. Because even if they don’t know who the “Ripples guy” is, they know that someone who has 5,000 Facebook friends is doing something right.

Torch:Speaking on the subject of social networks, do you think that some of the recent hate crimes such as the recent Rutgers suicide and incidents fueled by taunts on social networks counter your message?

Wesselman:I don’t think so. That suicide at Rutgers has received a lot of press. So have the other recent suicides of gay college students, and some of that is from cyber bullying and social media. I think social media brings out the best and it brings out the worst in society. Facebook totally changed the way that we interact.

Torch: What is Ripples and how did it start?

Wesselman:Ripples actually started about 10 years ago when I was mostly speaking at college campuses. Back then I was working as a leadership trainer and motivational speaker. Some students started saying to me that “I feel so fired up after your presentation but I know in a few days that motivation and inspiration is going to be gone.”

So we decided to experiment with this email project called Ripples and what I promised them is that I would send them an email every Monday morning because Monday mornings suck. It would take them sixty seconds or less to read and it will have a little inspirational quote that you could think about throughout the week. You would get it for free, there would be no marketing and I would keep sending it out as long as they would keep finding me cool quotes to share.

It used to be this little tiny piece of my job, but now because so many people know me as the “Ripples Guy,” I sort of infused the idea that little things make a big difference in all of my speeches. All of my speeches now have some angle on how the little things make a big difference.