Earlier today, professional wrestler and mental health advocate Terra Calaway announced that her organization Dropkick Depression had engaged RAINN to develop an “education, awareness and support training” program aimed specifically at the wrestling industry.
The program, slated for release later this year, boasts a goal of creating “a community of prevention and safety, as well as help those understand how to handle situations that may arise in the future”, by providing online training tailored to the wrestling community, using interactive means.
“When ‘Speaking Out’ happened, it seemed like the wrestling world was ready for a change. People listened to victims. People wanted change. It was so refreshing. Months later, things began to revert back to normal. Victims were pushed back to the side while abusers were welcomed back onto shows when the dust settled. It seemed like nothing was going to be done. It broke my heart. I wanted something to be done to help ensure that the victims weren’t forgotten and that ‘Speaking Out’ wasn’t just a ‘phase’ in professional wrestling.
I have suffered from sexual assault and domestic abuse in the past. I still have to make sure my rapist isn’t on shows with me. I still have to see the man who I spent four years in a toxic violent relationship with on my social media. Sometimes, when I voice my displeasure about it or being upset about it, people give me backhanded remarks to make me feel like I’m the dumb one for being upset. All of that, the Speaking Out movement, my own experiences with sexual assault and how people in wrestling treat myself (and my friends who have also been assaulted) just made me realize something had to be done, and if no one was going to do it, I would do it.“
Calaway explained why wrestling in particular needed this type of program, relating the industry to a “lawless town.”
“I call independent wrestling a ‘lawless town’ because there are no unions, there are no managers, there are no corporate offices to call. Indie wrestling relies solely on it’s participants to keep wrestling a safe place. We have no code of conduct that every company relies on. The lack of “rules and laws” allows for bad things in wrestling to happen and continue to happen until the problem is called out. Wrestling needs some sort of guideline to go by. This training is meant to help people realize what their actions do to others and moreso how to handle very delicate, sensitive situations.“
“RAINN is the nation’s largest sexual assault organization and the specifically focus on training,” Calaway said of the choice to pair with RAINN. “They provide corporate and union training, all 100% custom to the needs of the client. They don’t give the same speech you hear in high school. They take examples from that industry and apply it to a very interactive and back and forth discussion type training.”
Bell To Belles asked Calaway if she could expand on what type of training would be offered, and if there was a specific format the education would follow.
“Right now, the focus is on creating a culture of prevention. Trying to educate those on how their actions may be perceived to others, what consent is/isn’t, how to handle a situation you may come across in public, etc. The format has not been planned out yet. I will be dealing with RAINN for the next few months, putting together the entire course with them and giving them insight into the professional wrestling world. It’ll be taught over a virtual platform, such as Zoom, so anyone in the world will be able to take advantage of it.“
The program is currently offered to professionals within the world of wrestling, including members of media who wish to improve their knowledge of how to best cover such topics. Calaway was asked if the training would be opened up to fans in the future.
“I think if there is enough interest from wrestling fans, we may be able to make it work. It’s all based off the interest. If we have a large outpouring asking to be involved, there’s no way that I could turn them away. Everyone deserves to be able to learn and grow.”
Calaway’s organization, Dropkick Depression, aims to show those who struggle with depression they are not alone by providing an online forum for advice and raising funds for non-profits who bring awareness to suicide prevention and depression. Calaway was asked if she saw this new training as an extension of Dropkick Depression’s mission.
“I absolutely do,” Calaway answered. “Dropkick Depression is all about mental health and as someone who has dealt with mental health issues off of the incidents in my past, it’s absolutely something that fits within the mission of Dropkick. The whole point is to make this world of wrestling a safer place; mind, body, and soul.”
The mental health advocate shared final thoughts on her hopes for the new program.
“I genuinely hope that as many wrestlers sign-up that possibly can, but I also hope that promotions take this opportunity to get themselves or at least one member of their staff trained so there will always be a ‘safe space’ for someone that may need it, should anything come up. This course is a way for wrestlers, promotions, staff, etc., to let the public know, ‘Hey, I’ve taken steps to make wrestling a better place’, and instill some of the hope and confidence with the world that may have been lost when everything came to light during Speaking Out.”
“We’re still very early in the planning stages, but I promise all updates will be given out by my social media, as well as the Dropkick Depression website.”
Bell To Belles will be attending the future training, and applaud Terra for all she’s doing to better the industry, as a whole.
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