Some subjects are not easy to approach. Sometimes it is easier to gloss over them and move on with your life than actually stare them in the face, because the real world is less fun than the world most of us spend so much time in to escape the realities of life. One of those subjects is domestic violence. When I say I found absolutely no joy in writing this, I am not lying, but I feel it is important to open up and possibly start a dialog.
If you are one of the people like myself who are stuck solidly in the Wrestling Bubble, it would have been impossible to have missed the story last week that caused Twitter (as well as the wrestling media in general) to blow up into anger, when former WWE employee, Adam Rose (now known as Aldo Rose) decided to list a new shirt on Pro Wrestling Tees featuring his mugshot.
This may have flown under the radar except the fact that the mugshot in question was from an incident where he was arrested for alleged domestic violence. I say “alleged” because I cannot say that the incident that spawned the arrest could be legally considered domestic violence due to charges being dropped when Rose’s wife testified in court on his behalf.
What I can say is a matter of public record, as the events have been widely reported (by TMZ, Pro Wrestling Sheet, Wrestling Observer and multiple other outlets). Rose (real name Ray Leppan) was arrested by the Hillsborough County, Florida Sheriff’s office for what has been classified as a domestic dispute between himself and his wife Cassandra, in which Rose grabbed his wife by her face to yell at her and when she attempted to make a call to 911 out of fear that things would escalate, he prevented her from doing so by ripping the phone away from her. As a result of that evening, charges were lodged against Rose as he was booked for domestic violence and felony tampering with a witness.
The Leppans went to court over this, and when Cassandra spoke with the judge, she pleaded with him to go easy on her husband, stating that he did not hurt her and the whole incident was “blown way out of proportion”. As part of her plea to the judge, she mentioned that Rose had been “getting counseling from his pastor” after the events of that fateful evening and he was making progress and taking the counseling in a positive way. The judge granted the leniency that Cassandra was seeking, dropping all charges and closing the case.
We all know that no one is a saint, and people make mistakes, but if they learn from those mistakes it can turn a negative into a positive. My personal opinion about domestic violence withstanding, upon first hearing about the charges, I believed it was *possible* that Rose took the whole issue as seriously as one would hope and in his heart of hearts, was doing everything in his power to make sure that something like that never happened again.
Then IT happened. Many of us woke up one unsuspecting morning to find that Rose not only didn’t appear to be taking the domestic dispute seriously, but downright openly mocking it by trying to profit off of the events by listing a shirt for sale that featured his now infamous mugshot on it.
As expected, the reaction to this ill-advised shirt was almost unanimously negative and immediately caused a viral sensation. While many wanted to believe that Rose considered this matter with the appropriate gravitas, instead there he was online, joking, brazen, completely mocking what so many people have gone through by having such a shirt. Thankfully, Pro Wrestling Tees (or Rose himself) pulled the t-shirt from sale a day later.
Later that day, he made jokes on Twitter that not only was the shirt his wife’s idea, but she had joked that they should have put the mugshot on a wifebeater shirt. Uh oh. This article actually came as a result of me taking offense to these comments, that not only was no crime committed because the charges were dropped, but how offensive his jokes were in the face of something so serious. Seeing such a tweet infuriated me, as it only sweeps under the rug something that he should have owned up to and taken responsibility for. I couldn’t stay silent any longer.
This is fact. A dropped charge is not the same as an acquittal, and in my opinion (mine alone, not a reflection of Wrestling With Words), if the charges were not dropped, based on the events on public record reported by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office, this would have been considered domestic violence. Another point that seems to have slipped under the radar was that this wasn’t even the first time that the couple has had problems, as TMZ reported that yet another domestic violence issue occurred just a couple months prior in March.
My comment on Twitter directed to Rose was taken with umbrage by his wife, Cassandra, who sent me essentially a novel addressing her thoughts on the matter.
To distill her response (and to keep this article from reaching novel-length itself), I will post the relevant portions of her response to me. Keep in mind that it appears the response was not specifically meant solely for me, but rather what Mrs. Leppan classified in the response as “haters”. As such, I have omitted any parts of the response addressing things I did not bring up (such as her husband’s recent drug suspension from WWE, his position in the company and reflection by others who consider him a “jobber”, etc) as they are not relevant to this discussion.
“ Even when your wife gets a lawyer immediately, goes to court for your first hearing, goes before the prosecutor and the judge, stands up to take an oath to tell THE TRUTH and does just that- “NO CRIME WAS COMMITTED.” This was something not only blown completely out of proportion but comes in the same week our lives had just been turned upside down – At the snap of a finger- over something completely bogus and with that snap all of your childhood dreams (literally) are now gone and your name tarnished by lies and of course the “court of public opinion” has been brutal. “
“Then a hoax was played on you that everything was going to be okay and it was all a misunderstanding to only find out that SOMEONE WAS PLAYING A SICK JOKE AND did a damn good job at making it 100% legitimate… ONCE AGAIN YOU ARE EMBARRASSED, and rightfully so. Then comes another lie-changing stressful issue, that was again not the truth and facts were left out too, after “CHARGES WERE DROPPED” because of the FACT- “NO CRIME WAS COMMITTED”, but more irreparable damage was done and instead of balling up into a corner and having quite the journey over the last four and a half years and things turning out so horrid and your name shamed, you decide to put your head high and your shoulders back and look at it as a new beginning instead of feelings of defeat. Many choices, that may not be liked by all, had to be made so you can still provide for your family and take away a valuable lesson for not just yourself but those two SONS you were blessed with. So what I am trying to say is we are trying to make light of it and the lemons we were handed had to be made into lemonade for obvious reasons.”
“We are not trying to offend or hurt anyone, we are just the Leppan Family and parents who will provide a good life for our boys and only want the best for them no matter what it takes. AGAIN, NO CRIME WAS COMMITTED AND ALL CHARGES WERE DROPPED BECAUSE THERE NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN CHARGES IN THE FIRST PLACE.”
“HE HAD NO CLUE he was doing wrong and could cost him SO MUCH and all the intense stress and loss that came with it.”
“Love to all, even the haters that need to go drink their ‘hate-orade’ instead of judging others and being hurtful. Try to put yourself in Ray/Adam/Aldo’s shoes… He is a human being.”
Many of Cassandra’s words hit me hard, as I identified with them way more than I feel comfortable admitting, specifically when it came to her saying she would do anything for her children to make sure they lived a good life and her family was not torn apart by the recent actions of her husband. I WAS that child, and my mother WAS her in a similar situation.
It is never a comfortable thing to get into personal details of your life, especially when those details paint someone you love in a negative light, but I feel like in this context it makes sense to discuss them. Why would I want to air my dirty laundry in public? The simple answer is I don’t, but sometimes by doing so, others can come forward and do the same. Like many domestic crimes, they go unreported and if they are reported, they are often swept under the rug just so one could move on.
When I was a child, I came from a very abusive background. I loved my father dearly, but he was always mentally abusive to my mother; screaming, yelling, saying hurtful things, then things ramped up from there. He never laid hands on my mother up until that point, preferring instead to throw dishes, glasses, candles, pretty much anything that could be tossed across a room and shattered. He even took to making his point by tossing our coffee table and flipping it across the living room way more than a few times. It was a scary environment to be brought up in, even though no actual hands were ever laid on her. Until one day…
At the age of 5, my parents got into a particularly passionate argument and my father flew off the handle. This time was different. Where he would normally have said something horrible and repugnant, this time he took things way too far. He grabbed my mother, threw her down on the bed and began smothering her face with a pillow. She fought to breathe, but he was just too strong. I stood there frozen and watched her struggle, hopeless, and did the only thing I knew I could do, which was reach out for help. I had to do the unthinkable: dial 911 on my own father. I cried into the phone that my father was trying to kill my mother, and luckily for our sake it caused him to stop. My calling the police made him even more angry, and my mom and I went into the living room while he screamed, yelled and broke things all over the house.
The police showed up several minutes later, and while I still believe to this day that the right thing to do would have been to send him to jail so he could reflect on his actions, my mother went into a defensive mode, downplaying the events and saying they were blown out of proportion, that I overreacted. She said whatever she had to say to ensure that her family was not broken up, that we stayed together, no matter how imperfect. JUST LIKE CASSANDRA DID.
It wasn’t until several years later that my mother finally found the strength to leave my father, and we were better off for it. To this day, the best thing she ever did for herself or me was leaving him.
Does this mean I didn’t love my father? Of course not. He was a flawed man who (mostly) had good intentions, but let stress and circumstances control him and he allowed himself to lose control. This cycle of abuse did not continue with me, as I have made it a point to never let anger get the better of me to the point that I lashed out physically like that.
Have I made mistakes in my life? Of course. Did I handle every situation correctly? Of course not. I have been presented with violence dealt out by a former girlfriend (whose father laid hands on her on a regular basis) and she felt like in an argument it was OK to lay hands on me, perpetuating the cycle of violence that she learned in her own home. She punched me in the jaw hard enough that it took days afterward before it felt like it was working as expected. Did I punch her back? No, I didn’t. But I also didn’t handle it the way I should have either. The moment her fist hit me in the jaw, I saw red. The knee-jerk reaction would have been to defend and punch her back. I fought every urge in my body not to retaliate and as much as I’d like to say no violence was returned, I punched a massive hole in the wall about 2 inches away from her head. It made a point, of course, but there was probably a better way it could have been handled. I told her that she is lucky that I understood that violence begetting violence didn’t solve the problem, but I would also NEVER allow something like this to occur again either. Not long after that, I sent her packing, never to return. Not only did I feel like her actions were wrong, but it made me feel like an asshole for not having control over myself and letting anger cause me to be violent, whether or not that violence was on a person or an inanimate object like a wall.
All of my experiences (and millions of others who have seen or experienced domestic violence) are real. This is not something to be dismissed with levity. This is not something that should be profited off of. Not a situation where someone like Adam Rose should have the right to try to come off as edgy to jump start his indie wrestling career. In the grand scheme of things, this is a much larger issue that deserves the type of respect that The Leppans did not give it.
The fact that The Leppans made light of their violent situation and tried to profit off of it is disgusting. They said that their intent was not to offend, but unfortunately whatever their intent was, it DID offend. It offended MANY people who have been victims of domestic violence. People like my mother who had to deal with what was (in her words) the scariest situation she has ever been involved in, or those who continue to be caught up in the cycle of violence. For those people, saying the events were blown out of proportion and someone was not guilty of any crime because “the charges were dropped” is not an appropriate response, and a t-shirt like Rose put online only serves to mock and make light of their real stories.
I do hope that in my heart of hearts, Rose and his wife see their domestic disputes as well as the reactions they received from all over the internet as a learning opportunity. I hope that they teach their children that no matter how heated things get, reacting with violence to those you supposedly love more than anything else in the world is not the right response. I hope they are also able to see the big picture for what it is. As many have suggested, instead of a “joke” to profit off of, they could have made a t-shirt where all profits went to a good cause, one that helps those victims of domestic violence. After all, it is no laughing matter.