Over the past two days, professional wrestling has undergone its reckoning with dozens of people coming forward with allegations of rape, abuse, assault, manipulation, and coercion among others that have left individuals reeling with the effects of said infractions.
I, like many, have been horrified at these stories and had to step away at times to clear my mind. Unfortunately, many of these brave people haven’t been able to walk away from the trauma sustained and are hopefully, experiencing a modicum of relief to get their allegations out there and not living with these experiences alone in silence.
The #SpeakingOut movement has exposed the very worst of this industry that goes beyond isolated incidents or “a few bad apples”. There is a culture that has operated without checks and balances, with access to positions of power, and those who felt they were above consequences for their actions. That must stop.
The rehabilitation of the victims is first and foremost. Suffering in silence and living with the effects of these actions is horrifying to envision going through while seeing those alleged to have committed such actions celebrated in your industry.
As a society, we hope that those accused find therapy and better themselves and often that takes the actions of those brave enough to come forward and force a public spotlight to enact change among those who felt they were untouchable. Solace for their actions should come from the damage they inflicted on their victims, and not for fear of losing their job or standing in the industry.
I have struggled over the past twenty-four hours to get a handle on how best to cover this story. In a journalistic setting, we must remain impartial even with the vile accusations presented. As journalists, we must put personal feelings aside and owe it to the audience we serve that we provide the opportunity for the accused to respond.
A statement that a company takes the allegations seriously and are investigating the matter is only the first response and can’t be the last one. These allegations are too big and involve too many people to forget or ignore what has been alleged.
The next set of questions is how promotions – big and small – can create environments where all feel safe and there is a transparent process for such claims to be made. The industry cannot police itself and that leads to what kind of oversight is possible.
This must start from the ground level from training facilities with protocol and oversight that eliminates young performers being taken advantage of by their superiors, which was a common thread throughout the stories. Throughout the independent scene, the hope would be immediate action taken and that will take locker rooms unifying to clean up the industry allowing victims to feel comfortable sharing their stories and knowing they will not be the ones affected in a negative way regarding their career if the assaulter is higher on the food chain.
Then, the national level of companies needs a clear-cut policy and independent body that staff and talent can share in a confidential manner. All this requires resources and education and while the big companies have the means to take proactive measures regarding instances of sexual assault, abuse, racism, mental health issues, and constructing a safe workplace, independent companies live hand-to-mouth. How equipped are they to create these measures beyond self-oversight?
The whispers of the industry need to be amplified into screams for reform. That won’t happen overnight, but a hell of a lot of movement occurred over this last night.
We can’t snap our fingers and assume the industry is going to wake up to a different culture and set of ethics. It’s an industry full of strong-willed individuals that will force change and ones that are finally being heard. Others will shrug this off and call it overblown or take the easiest path in front of them – to assume nothing is wrong and go about their business. It’s the hope there are far more agents of change than dissenters of those coming forward.
These allegations don’t paint everybody attached to the business, but it covers way too many to categorize it as the exception to the rule.
I don’t have all the answers. I’ve always thought one of my strengths is not being afraid to say, “I don’t know”. It’s the basis of my job as a reporter to seek out answers and knowledge that I don’t have. What I do know is that this site has always treated these subjects with the importance, respect, and urgency they command. This story will be no different. I hope to speak with many people and different voices to add further sunlight to this dark topic.
This is all I have for today and I’ve struggled for hours to get my words out. I’ll hopefully have a proper news update this weekend but today didn’t seem appropriate to be focusing on anything but this story.
It has rocked this industry to its core, and that’s a good thing.