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    Saturday, June 20, 2020

    It's About Time We Talked About Sexual Misconduct in Wrestling

    In 2017, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements started a revolution among people, mostly women, who wanted to fight against their abusers. While these started in light of the sexual misconduct and assault accusations against Harvey Weinstein, this wasn't just a Hollywood problem. Soon enough we would see news coming out of the music industry, the NBA, and more.

    It was only a matter of time before a #MeToo-esque movement would start in the wrestling community. On June 18th, several women used the hashtag #SpeakingOut for allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct against wrestlers and prominent figures from both in the WWE, most notably in its NXT UK brand, and other promotions.

    As of writing, the list of alleged abusers include names like Matt Riddle, Jack GallagherDavid Starr, Jordan Devlin, Joe Coffey, Josh Bodom, Travis BanksJim and Stacey Cornette. These are just some of the personalities that are being exposed for allegedly sending inappropriate messages, emotional abuse, predatory behavior, and rape. It wouldn't be surprising if the list grows longer in the next few days.

    There have been immediate actions done within 24 hours since #SpeakingOut trended on social media: WWE released Jack Gallagher and also investigating allegations involving other talents, AEW announced that Jimmy Havoc entered into rehab, and NWA Vice President Dave Lagana resigned.

    I will not go into detail as to how influential these people are and why you should care about them. A scandal of this magnitude should not warrant them more exposure or sympathy for their careers. This piece is for the people who were brave enough to tell their stories.

    ExposeWrestling on Twitter, one of the many accounts compiling #SpeakingOut stories, has also retweeted statements from indie female pro wrestlers speaking out against trainers and male performers who emotionally manipulated and tried to assault them. Although the accused weren't named, it still sends a clear message that this problem is more rampant than anyone could've imagined. This type of abuse happens when powerful men think that they can prey on vulnerable women and get away with it. Since the perpetrators have influence, survivors would feel afraid to come forward. Why do you think it took so long for Harvey Weinstein to go down? Meanwhile, men like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are still getting critical acclaim despite multiple accusations of grooming and assault.

    I know this isn't the first time wrestlers would be called out for inappropriate behavior towards women (Alberto Del Rio is on top of my list of despicable people). If #SpeakingOut didn't happen, who knows how long this would continue? 

    This also brings up the concept of wrestling being a "boys club," a.k.a. a sorry excuse to dismiss men's gross actions because "boys will be boys." It's about time people retire the notion that men are inherently creepy towards women because they couldn't keep it in their pants. Women don't exist for the pleasure of men and men shouldn't exist only to act like rapists.

    Amid all this, there are still people who choose to victim-blame with lines like "Where's your evidence?," "People should get both sides," and "Think about the person's career." Here's a statistics lesson for you: The percentage of false accusations of sexual violence is only two to six percent of reported police cases. It's the same percentage as other false reports for other crimes. Besides, what would survivors gain from lying? Imagine the trauma they'd have to live through and having to relive all of it once they come forward. When they do tell their story, there's still a 50-50 chance they will be attacked, especially if their abuser is someone famous, and they'll be asked why they didn't report sooner. The simple answer is it's because so many people's knee-jerk reaction is to assume everything's a lie.

    (Disclaimer: I'm aware there have been false rape cases where people's lives have been ruined. It's unfortunate that these happened, but it also makes it harder for actual victims to come forward because of people who used sexual violence for their personal agenda. Please don't do this.)

    As for the personalities' careers, I could not care less. If they wanted to keep their jobs and a clean track record, then they should've acted better. It is the promotions' prerogative to purge their companies of predators and abusers.

    The whole thing also hits too close to home since many of the stories have come from the fanbase. I've never experienced anything similar at wrestling shows here and abroad, but I empathize with them because I've been harassed and emotionally abused as well. Plus, the thought that it could happen to anyone, especially those close to me is terrifying. No one deserves to be harassed and assaulted, nor should they feel unsafe anywhere.

    This is why listening to survivors and not invalidating their experiences matters. When their voices are suppressed, abusers will continue to thrive and victimize others. The exposés coming out of western promotions are just the tip of the iceberg and, as unfortunate as this might sound, these incidents can happen and have already happened in promotions on this side of the globe. True enough, PWR's Nina came out with a statement accusing SPW's Alex Cuevas of harassment and also reshared similar stories from other female wrestlers. Fellow PWR wrestler Crystal has also come forward with her experiences of sexual harassment as a wrestler, including her interactions with Alex while they were in India.

    If a wrestler or any person involved in a promotion is reading this, reassess your ranks and do better. Do not be complicit in the abuse. Be vocal against the abusers and predators. This should serve as a wake-up call to keep talents and fans safe from sexual misconduct and other similar incidents. Don't treat #SpeakingOut as just another trending topic on Twitter. If you refuse to speak up or show support because this is uncomfortable, here's your reminder that this is a necessary conversation on a systemic problem rooted in misogyny and toxic masculinity. It needs to stop.

    To the survivors who shared their stories and have yet to speak up: We see you and we hear you. Don't let fear stop you from speaking up. Most importantly, remember that what happened to you was never your fault.

    Photo courtesy of SPW


    Jackie Arias is a writer and former content creator for a feminist lifestyle website. Aside from casually catching up on wrestling news, you can find her listening to music and playing video games she can never finish while drinking copious amounts of coffee. Her Twitter and CuriousCat are open for story suggestions and comments—or photos of your cats.
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    Item Reviewed: It's About Time We Talked About Sexual Misconduct in Wrestling Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jackie Arias
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