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Lyceum speaker to share story of having father who was serial rapist

By KBell
Jan. 29, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.


IF YOU GO

WHAT: Lyceum Lecture featuring Rebecca Kiessling

WHEN: Noon Tuesday

WHERE: VISD Fine Arts Center, 1002 Sam Houston Drive

COST: Free

NEXT LYCEUM LECTURE SPEAKER

Temple Grandin, the fourth and final speaker of the series, will speak April 5. Grandin's remarkable story of overcoming the limitations of autism to become an accomplished and world-famous animal scientist was the subject of an HBO Films feature starring Claire Danes. A professor of animal science at Colorado State University, the unique perspective of her autism gives Grandin the ability to visualize mechanical systems in a way that no one else can and gives her the ability to see things from an animal's viewpoint. The fascinating story of Grandin's life - from the perspective of someone who sees the world in such a profoundly different way - is a tale of overcoming obstacles many would find insurmountable. But Grandin's successful career and best-selling books on both autism and animal behavior are proof of the strength of the human spirit and the ability for even the most disadvantaged to turn adversity into prosperity.

At the age of 18, Rebecca Kiessling learned the circumstances that brought her into this world: Her mother was attacked at knife-point by a serial rapist.

Kiessling, who was brought up by adoptive parents, said the revelation left her devastated, targeted, and in a position to have to justify her own existence.

After years spent in introspection, Kiessling said she found a way to heal: by telling her story. She will share her journey Tuesday as Victoria College's Lyceum Lecture speaker.

"I'm going to share my story about adoption and reunion with my birth mother. I'll talk about my struggles with value, identity, purpose, and I'll touch on issues like domestic violence, rape and abortion," she said.

The issues may be heavy, but Kiessling said she hopes to appeal to open hearts and minds.

"I like to try to meet people where they're at. My message is not one of condemnation," she said. "I feel I have a message that has value."

Even as the shock of her conception rang through the young Kiessling, she would go on to excel in academics and athletics.

After earning a law degree, Kiessling said, she still struggled to understand what her worth was.

"I hope people can understand that ultimately their value is not based upon how they were conceived, who their parents are, what they look like, how much money they make," she said. "Their value is not based upon their success or failures or burdens or benefits. But that each one of us has an innate value and that none of us is worthless, but priceless."

Kiessling has been married 11 years and has five children, two of whom are adopted.

She has told her story repeatedly, taking it across the U.S. and other countries.

Often, she said, others ask her if she'd prefer to have never been told about father. The answer is, simply, no.

"I'm glad I know what I know because it is my story, it's the truth, and it's powerful. And it is life-changing for others," she said.

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