Updated: May 15, 2020
Article by Terra Calaway
Although sexual assault awareness month was back in April, I still decided I wanted to do this. It seems that more now than ever, women are opening up more about their experiences with sexual assault as the victim blaming stigma is slowly being replaced with love and support as a whole. While we still have excessive strides that still need to be made in professional wrestling, as well as the real world, the future seems to be brighter. I hope this article helps bring a few more folks around on their views of sexual assault and more importantly, the care and love victims need following.
Here's the hard facts, the things that are not pretty and not fun to look at because it hurts. It hurts to see these numbers...
Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Only 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. Of sexual abuse cases reported to law enforcement, over half were friends or acquaintances of the victim.
1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime while 1 out of every 33 American men have experienced the same.
Think about those numbers. How many friends and family members do you have? How many co-workers do you have? 1 in 6... 1 in 33. You very well, and most likely, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted. Whether you know it or not, you could have a loved one suffering in silence. Recently, a spike in the wrestling community has occurred where survivors are no longer staying silent and are finally outing those who assaulted them. While I surround myself with good, wonderful people so I see mainly positive messages and support, there are still many individuals using anything they can against those speaking out. Hurling insults and accusations, not listening to facts and evidence, refusing to believe that someone they like or care for could possibly do something so vile. This article is for you.
Why have I always been so adamant about speaking out? Because I never did.
In 2010, the guy I was dating (who got me into wrestling, causing me to find a school and become a wrestler) and I broke up. I ended things after just simply falling out of love. He was the first boyfriend; I think most girls realize they do not spend forever with their first. It was never anything against him. We even continued to spend time together as friends. I believe he secretly hoped that we were going to get back together. One day, we had spent the afternoon together and were hanging out at my house. I was starting to talk to someone else at the time and I’m not sure if he knew and kept it to himself or if he truly didn’t know, but out of the blue, he began kissing me. I tried to pull away, but he continued. I was confused and did not really know what to do in this situation. I had never been in that position before. As I sat there, trying to figure out what to do, he became more intimate. I began to cry and push him, trying to get him off me, but it ended up not working. I just sat there, crying silently. I remember staring at the wall where the guy I had been seeing wrote a small note on my dry erase board, crying and muttering "no... no..." I felt cold and dead inside. It was like my entire body just shut down and waited for it to all be over. Towards the end of it all, I stopped pushing back, giving up, and just focused on the wall.
Moments after, as I scurried to get my clothes from the ground and get them back on me as quickly as possible, he was sitting next to me and asked why I was crying. I told him I didn’t want to have sex, I didn't want to do anything with him and that he didn’t listen to me when I said no. He didn't get the hint when I pushed for him to get off of me. He said, “Oh, sorry" with a shrug, as if it was no big deal.
That was it. “Sorry”.
He got up and left, I believe realizing the gravity of the situation. I sat there, crying. Not sure what to do. I honestly don't remember anything else that happened that day. I think I had to have just put my chin up and continued my day as at the time I lived with my mother and didn't want her to see me upset. I just didn't know how to process it. He was my ex-boyfriend and I cared for him once, I still thought of him as my friend. I decided in my mind that it wasn't as bad as I originally made it out to be. I started telling myself that it was no big deal and it's "not like he hurt me". I was victim blaming myself. If I didn't hang out with him after our breakup, he wouldn't have gotten the idea. If I had just told him I was seeing someone, he would have left. It was my fault. I did it. I was the one in the wrong.
I told myself that sexual assaults are not what I encountered. He was never malicious towards me, he just pinned me down. He didn't hit me, he didn't threaten me. He just pinned me down and didn't listen to me when I said stop. When I gave up pushing and fighting back, I just laid there like a corpse, he didn't do anything to hurt me. So it wasn't assault, right? It was just a "misunderstanding". He said sorry. That counts, right? Even if he didn't mean it?
It took me years of telling close, close friends one by one for me to realize what he had done had nothing to do with me and that it was an assault. It wasn't my fault for hanging out with him after our breakup, trying to be his friend. It wasn't my fault for hanging out with him in my room. It wasn't my fault for not fighting back harder when my body shut down. It wasn't my fault. It was his. Even if he 100%, truly, deeply thought it was ok, it was still his fault.
2015 came around, I left a physically and emotionally abusive relationship and moved to Pennsylvania. I found out through a friend he also lived on the East Coast. I messaged him and let him know that I was in PA, we might run into each other, and I wanted to be civil. I wouldn't bother him, he wouldn't bother me, we'd go about our days. I thought it'd make me feel better. We had similar friends from the days of making wrestling friends on MySpace and I knew I was going to run into him at some point, I had to get ahead of it. It didn't make me feel better and I blocked him before even knowing if he read it, being too scared to even know what he'd say. Through the years I ran into situations of him and I in the same building, both times I was spared by either my then-boyfriend-now-husband or my friends who made sure I never had contact with him. He got the hint to avoid me and I made sure to avoid him. However, with just his backyard wrestling experience, he started getting himself onto indie events. That brought a whole new level of having to avoid him.
Two years ago, I was offered a spot on a show with him. I very discreetly asked if he would be on the event, they confirmed. I let them know that I appreciated the offer, however I was not going to be able to work the event. He asked why and because we (the promoter and I) were friends, I explained the situation and asked for him to keep it between us. He said it was fine and wouldn't mention it. A few days later, another promoter from the same company reached out to me, asking why I wouldn't do the show. I told him that I was not trying to cause drama, I didn't want to talk about it, just that it was a personal preference. I was asked again, this time being questioned if it was something he needed to worry about for his fans or roster, especially the women he employed. I decided to explain the situation to him, mentioning multiple times I wasn't trying to cause drama or even get him unbooked, I wanted him to do his own thing, I was fine. I simply was choosing to not put myself around him. He thanked me and said he understood.
A few days later, he messages me that they all confronted my ex and got his side of the story and decided that they were going to continue using him in the future. They believed him. They sided with him. It broke my heart in two. Professional wrestling is supposed to be a brotherhood. We're supposed to look out for each other. Yet, here was a company not only not respecting my wishes to have the whole issue left alone and confronted him. They confronted him as a group, making it look as if I had it out for him. Then, after all that, decided "Nah, we're going with his side" and finding it necessary to message me and tell me after I had already mentioned not being interested in even coming up. The brotherhood seemed to only pertain to the men in wrestling, not women.
Now, I know my story is long and not "juicy" enough for some people out hunting for drama. But I told it for two reasons.
It is not the victim’s fault. If you are the survivor, it is not your fault. No one asks to be assaulted. The absence of consent is assault. Plain and simple. If you stared at the wall and stopped putting up a fight, just wishing for it to be over, the way I did... It's not your fault. If you punched and kicked and did damage to your assailant but were unsuccessful... It's not your fault. There is no outfit, no glance, no amount of alcohol, no hair style, nothing that expresses consent. Consent can only be given, it cannot be taken. No one is asking for it. Please do not feel alone. Please reach out when you need it. There are good, kind-hearted people that only want the best for you. Even if you’re a stranger. There are good people in this world that want to be there for you and help you.
If you are not the victim, the above still applies. Do not assign blame to the victim because of their outfit, because of their situation, because of their past. Survivors have already been through enough. More than anyone who hasn't been through it can imagine. If someone doesn't come forward immediately, it's because they needed time to process and get through it their own way. Don't assume that someone is "waiting for the opportunity". No survivor is trying to be malicious when they recount the day their life changed. They're trying to warn others, they're trying to protect others.
The second reason is to educate others through my experience on how to treat someone who has survived sexual assault. The situation is incredibly sensitive and hard for them. Whether they're talking to you a day after it happened or years after it happened, it still hurts. It's still an emotional scar they will have for the rest of their life. I'm incredibly happily married, I have an amazing support system, I am happy in life, but none of those things will ever remove the small scar that I will always have. It doesn't impact my life now, but it certainly impacts my views on how survivors are treated now. It's been over 10 years, I still don't tell people who he is or publicly post to ruin his career. That doesn't make my situation any less valid than someone outing another publicly to mend their own hearts. All situations are different. All survivors are different. You cannot hold one to the standard of another.
Additionally, please always remember that someone telling their truth is not an invitation for individuals who are not close with the survivor to pry and poke to find out more details simply because they want to know more. If someone is not mentioning names, if someone is trying to keep it discreet, it's not your place to hound and harass them to give you more details because you think it's juicy news.
Treat everyone with care. Treat survivors with care. Keep your mind open. They may be a perfect stranger to you, but you could have a loved one holding their own secrets inside. Seeing the backlash and ridicule often associated with naming abusers publicly, especially from a friend or family member, keeps others suffering in silence alone. Just think if it happened to you. If something traumatic happened to you and you were too raw to mention it now, but you saw your friends and family calling other survivors "liar" or "they were asking for it", you may never come forward and your scar may never truly close.
Professional wrestling is a wonderful place, and while all the above can be applied to the real world, it especially needs to apply to wrestling. A brotherhood is a brotherhood, we need to protect each other.
Please protect yourselves.
Please protect each other.
If you are in need of assistance following a sexual assault or would like to help those in need, please click the image below to visit the RAINN website. They also have a 24/7 available hotline to help immediately.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.