The scar of sexual harassment
MANILA, Philippines – Rappler speaks to Philippine Wrestling Revolution champion Crystal, one of the organization's female athletes who recently came forward with their experiences of sexual harassment in the sport.
In her own words, Crystal shares how much courage it took her to speak out against her abusers, particularly former Singapore Pro Wrestling's Alex Cuevas, and why she's thankful that she did.
I want people to understand that a moment of pleasure for the harasser cannot make up for the lifetime of pain that the victim will receive.
It’s been almost a year of battling myself.
There was this one time me and my boyfriend went out and I got drunk. And apparently, I was so drunk when we got home that I just started crying to him saying: "I’m so sorry, I don’t understand why you want to be with me. I’m not clean. I’ve been violated, I’ve been raped."
It’s the guilt of being a victim. It’s the guilt of having someone you don’t want in there. It feels impure. It feels you’re violated.
It scars you for life because you feel things that shouldn’t happen – you were forced down, you were pinned down to submission.
But good thing I was able to defend myself but I have athletic background – I have taekwondo behind me, I have wrestling.
But for women who don’t have that, the moment of bringing up your knee may not be your capability. May mga babae diyan na natutuluyan. Hindi nila naliligtas ‘yung sarili nila, so I’m just scared na mangyayari iyon sa kanila. (There are women who get vicitimized. They don't have a chance to save themselves, so I'm scared this will happen to them.)
I wanted to speak out.
It wasn't because of clout or anything, which I was accused of. I don't understand what I'm gonna get from this because everyone's gonna know that I'm a victim.
I honestly was scared because I didn't want to be known for this. I want to be known for my wrestling capabilities and I want to be known as myself, my character and what I portray.
But it was important for me to speak out because I didn't want this to happen any longer. It's a good thing that (fellow wrestler) Nina had the courage to do what she did because not all women have that courage.
I didn't want to just ruin people's lives. But when I thought about it even more and the more [sexual harassment cases] went on, it's going to ruin more lives of women.
Before, I was scared that no one's going to believe me or people are gonna judge me for this because in wrestling, your reputation is everything. Once you're known to be someone who is bad, lots of things are going to go wrong because it happened.
Inter-gender matches happen a lot. And it's scary because the strength of men is different from the strength of women. It's also scary, something might happen to you.
Before, Alex (Cuevas) would say: "Oh, I can get some people blackballed from wrestling. I can tell my friends in this promotion to not help this girl anymore because she did this."
I was scared that I was gonna get blackballed out of wrestling. That's why I hid this for so long. I was so scared that I was going to get blackballed because wrestling is my dream, wrestling is my job. It's not a nice feeling to work so hard, then lose all of it because of what this guy has done.
'Not asking for it'
I think there are a lot of people out there who are saying: "She's dressed like that, she looks like that, her eyes, her makeup is like that. It's like it's attracting me. It's not my fault. It's hers."
I am so annoyed by this because even if I'm dressed like half-naked in the ring – I'm wearing a sports bra and a tiny pair of short shorts. I know that I'm sexualizing myself because it's meant to catch people's attention [in wrestling].
But just because I'm sexualizing myself and my outfit, it doesn't mean that I'm asking for it.
Just because my boobs and cleavage are pushed up, it's popping out there, I'm not asking you to touch them. I'm not asking you to brush up on them.
There were women who tried out for PWR, but they would quit before they even graduated or even become a wrestler inside the ring.
I remember this one girl, she tried out for PWR. She got in and she was training. She wanted to be good, but men just went after her like, "Oh, she's a woman."
To me, just because she's a woman doesn't mean that you have to go for her. You don't have to sexualize her in that way. Hindi porke't babae siya, kailangan mo na siya i-girlfriend. (Just because she's a woman, it doesn't mean you have to make her your girlfriend)
It's like there's this new girl in town and now everyone's trying to beat each other to get to her. Something like that.
She ended up quitting and I felt bad because it sucks that someone just gave up on her dream just because they don't want to be treated this way.
And I get why she quit because there's little women in this sport, so that's very scary as well.
There are a lot of very kind, very responsible men in wrestling, but there are also bad apples and sometimes bad apples stick together.
And because there's politics in wrestling, sometimes the bad apples are the popular ones. So even back then when I reported to them about Peter (Verzosa), because he was friends with almost everyone, I just got brushed off because they would rather cheer him on than believe that I was harassed.
I want to be able to enjoy my life.
I woke up the other day screaming. It's like I want to move on because it's happened already. I can't undo what has happened.
And speaking out may prevent this from happening again in the future for other women, so that they don't have to go through it. But me – a victim of this – I just want to move on.
I don't want to drag it out any longer because I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting. I just want to let go and posting my story is like a symbolic way of letting go.
After I posted it, it felt like a relief, like a bit of the weight was off my shoulders. I didn't care what they said after because I just wanted to let go. And I want to move on because I don't want this incident to identify me as a person that can't let go.
If he (Cueveas) apologizes in the future, like sincerely, I will take it. But I will also get rid of him in my life.
I'm thankful that I was able to move on because it made me stronger in a way that I can stand up on my feet.
I pushed through it on my own. That's something that anyone can't take away from me.
The strength of moving on was something that I did for myself on my own.
After Crystal posted her story, she received threats from Cuevas' family and girlfriend. PWR has set up a management committee to help serve justice for Crystal and other female wrestlers who came forward with experiences of sexual harassment. – Rappler.com