Mick Foley & RAINN (the Rape Abuse Incest National Network) have joined together to create The WrestleMania Dream Vacation Sweepstakes, a massive fundraising effort that helps raise awareness for a difficult subject matter while giving pro-wrestling fans a unique opportunity to experience The Showcase of The Immortals in spectacular fashion. 

Pro-wrestling fans aren’t typically regarded as politically or socially engaged members of a larger community, and yet, as Mick Foley stated on Dave Zirin’s Edge of Sports podcast earlier this week wrestling fans create one of "the largest source of income for the largest anti-sexual assault organization in the [United States].”

Each year, fans unite not merely because they want to go to WrestleMania, and not merely because they love Mick Foley, but because they genuinely believe in what RAINN represents. Visiting the comments sections on Mick Foley’s social media pages reveals legions of passionate, thoughtful fans who are proud to help raise awareness for a topic typically relegated to the shadows of society. Many fans who wouldn’t even be able to go on the WrestleMania Dream Vacation still choose to donate to RAINN each year simply because they believe in the cause.

Mick first reached out to RAINN in 2008 precisely because sexual violence is a topic that rarely receives the attention it deserves. He volunteered hundreds of hours of his time lending anonymous support to survivors of sexual violence via RAINN’s Online Hotline to better understand the organization and to be a better advocate. The #WrestleManiaDreamVacation Sweepstakes represents the culmination of his consciousness-raising efforts, pooling his established fanbase and his resources to have the most positive affect possible.

I recently got to interview RAINN’s development director, Chelsea Bowers to shed more light on Mick and RAINN’s efforts. Chelsea is responsible for overseeing RAINN’s fundraising activities. RAINN’s development team raises funds to operate the national Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rain.org) and improve sexual assault laws and policies.

I already knew the answer to my first question, but I had to ask it anyway, because Mick Foley’s importance to this cause cannot be overstated…

Who is your favorite pro-wrestler and why?

Without a doubt, Mick Foley is my favorite wrestler! Before Mick reached out to us in 2008, I had never watched a wrestling match in my life. I’ve since watched many of Mick’s matches, read his books, been to his comedy shows, seen his documentaries — and gotten to know him quite well. I have such admiration for Mick’s ability to connect with an audience, both as a wrestler and through his comedy. He’s an incredible actor, and I’ve been totally captivated by his embodiment of the Cactus Jack and Mankind personas.
Mick is one of the kindest people I know. Just like he was in the ring, there are no limits to what he will do when he believes in something. I’ve seen this through his dedication to helping survivors of sexual assault. Mick learned to type on a computer for the first time in order to support survivors through RAINN’s Online Hotline. He took the night shifts, because that was when we saw a high demand. He has introduced RAINN to a whole new audience, and inspired so many of his fans to get the help they deserved.
Mick truly uses his platform as a celebrity to improve the lives of others, and RAINN is so fortunate to have his support.

Although the topic of sexual violence and the idea of "consent" has received more media attention in recent years, a fundamental understanding and acceptance of "consent" is not as widespread as one would hope, so I thought it was important for it to be explained.

Please describe "consent" so that all those reading this are 100% certain they understand what it means, and how to respect someone's wishes.

The laws about consent vary by state, but the way consent plays out in real life is all about communication.
Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. It should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.
At any point during sexual activity, consent can be withdrawn. If at any point you wish to stop, clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and do not want to continue. The best way to ensure both parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it. Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?” can be very effective in making sure you’re both comfortable.

What affect, if any, has working for RAINN had on your perspective on culture, family, & relationships?

I’ve been with RAINN for nearly 10 years. My involvement with RAINN and this cause in general has become a big part of my identity. It’s very important to me for a partner to understand sexual violence, and the ideas around consent and respect.
Many friends, acquaintances and even strangers have disclosed to me over the years. It takes tremendous courage to speak up about an experience with sexual violence, and some people are not able to come forward for years after their assault. The first person a survivor tells can have a profound impact on their recovery process, and feeling understood and believed can change the trajectory of someone’s life. Each day, RAINN’s hotline staff helps nearly 500 survivors to realize that they’re not alone, they’re not to blame, and recovery is possible.

We live in a culture where sex and violence are often sensationalized, glorified, and even presented as synonymous (in advertising, television, videogames, film etc). How might that shape the public consciousness, and attitudes toward sexual violence?

One of RAINN’s priorities is to change the way that the public perceives and responds to sexual violence. One of the ways that we do this is by working with the entertainment industry, including producers, actors and musicians, to educate the public about sexual assault.
We regularly work with writers and producers of TV shows on storylines dealing with sexual violence, helping them to ensure that the crime and aftermath is portrayed accurately and sensitively. In the last year, we partnered with shows and documentaries such as Cold Justice: Sex Crimes, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Hunting Ground to raise awareness and to let survivors know that help is available.
Each time a PSA airs featuring our hotline, or a celebrity mentions our services, the number of people reaching out to us for help jumps dramatically. For example, after the airing of Matt McGorry’s PSA following a November 2015 episode of How to Get Away with Murder, we saw a 47% increase in demand for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

What will it take to disrupt this culture of violence, and create a more prosperous future for all genders?

In order to reduce sexual violence and change the way that the crime is perceived and responded to, we need representation from all voices — men and women alike. In order to change the fact that 1 in 6 American women, and 1 in 33 American men will become the victim in his or her lifetime, we need everyone to work together to change behaviors and attitudes. For instance, through our work with college students, and partnerships with groups like the It’s On Us campaign, we encourage men and women to step in if they see something that doesn’t feel right, through bystander intervention.
It’s important to remember that sexual violence isn’t just a women’s issue. A new national poll conducted by The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation finds that both men and women identify reducing sexual violence as a top priority in our country.

It's not uncommon for beloved celebrities and respected artists to have violent pasts - cases of abuse that were settled out of court or brushed under the rug only to be dragged to the surface years later. How do you suggest fans of these celebrities and artists actually deal with the knowledge that someone they admire/admired committed acts of violence?

It can be very difficult to learn that someone you respect, such as a celebrity or other high profile person has committed, or been accused of committing, acts of sexual violence. We’ve seen high profile cases involving celebrities create a tremendous outpouring of support for survivors — and encourage many people to reach out for help for the very first time. For instance, when the Cosby story came out in late 2014, the publicity surrounding the news led to a 50% increase in usage of RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline.
It’s important to remember that celebrities do not get a pass, just because they’re celebrities. I would encourage fans of celebrities who have been accused of committing sexual violence to counter these unconscionable acts with good deeds. Consider volunteering for your local sexual assault service provider or taking action on social media, or check out RAINN’s volunteer opportunities.

Lastly, how can people best help RAINN?

RAINN relies on the time, voices, and generosity of people like you to educate our communities, operate our hotlines, and fund our vital programs and services.
If you enjoy making a difference in the lives of others, consider volunteering for RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, or our web-based Online Hotline. If you’re a survivor who would like to share your story to raise awareness in your community, consider joining RAINN’s Speakers Bureau — a network of more than 1,700 survivors nationwide. Create a personal fundraising page, and ask your friends and family to support a cause that matters to you. Or make a contribution to RAINN. Any gift, no matter how large or small, makes a tremendous difference. A donation of $10 will enable one survivor to get the support that they need and deserve through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Lastly, always stand up for what’s right, and to be a supportive friend. If you see something that feels wrong, there are many different ways you can step in to interrupt the situation. If a friend or loved one discloses to you about their experience with sexual violence, it’s important to listen, to believe them, and to let them know that it wasn’t their fault. Here are some great tips for supporting a friend or loved one.

Thank you Chelsea for taking the time to answer my questions, and thanks to Mick Foley for helping to raise awareness for RAINN's invaluable efforts. The WrestleMania Dream Vacation Sweepstakes continues to demonstrate how engaged and charitable professional wrestling fans can be. You can enter at www.wrestlemaniadreamvacation.org today.

The Sweepstakes will come to a close at 11:59 PM, Tuesday March 15th.

Here are some of the prizes included in the vacation package:

  1. Winner and guest will receive round-trip air transportation (this includes two economy-class seats from winner and guest’s closest major U.S. or international city, to an airport within 25 miles of Arlington, TX)
  2. Winner and guest will receive round-trip transportation between airport and hotel
  3. Winner and guest will receive five nights lodging at the Comfort Suites in Arlington, TX from Thursday, March 31 — Tuesday, April 5, 2016 (single room, double occupancy)
  4. Winner will receive $1,000 in spending money
  5. Winner will receive an original 20x32 Rob Schamberger piece of art featuring the wrestler of his or her choice
  6. Winner and guest will join Mick Foley for dinner
  7. Winner will receive two ringside tickets to WrestleMania (optional)
  8. Winner will receive two tickets to the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (optional)
  9. Winner will receive two tickets to Monday Night Raw (optional)
  10. Winner will receive two tickets to WWE AXXESS (optional)
  11. Winner will receive two tickets to WWE NXT (optional)
  12. Winner will receive two tickets to WWE Ring of Honor + a meet and greet (optional)
  13. Winner will receive two tickets to the WWE Shimmer Woman show (optional)
  14. Winner will receive two VIP tickets to Kevin Nash's Shenanigans party + a meet and greet (optional)
  15. Winner will receive two tickets to Ringside with Jim Ross and Friends + a meet and greet (optional)
  16. Winner will receive two tickets to Jim Cornette’s NWA Parade of Champions experience (optional)
  17. Winner will receive two VIP tickets to WaleMania 2 (optional)
  18. Winner will receive two tickets to Evolve on April 1st or April 2nd (optional)
  19. A Walt Disney World Vacation following WrestleMania (OPTIONAL):
  20. Winner and guest will receive economy-class airfare from an airport within 25 miles of Arlington, TX to an airport within 25 miles of Orlando, FL (flight departs TX on Tuesday, April 5, 2016; flight departs FL on Saturday, April 9, 2016 and takes winner/guest back to their respective cities).
  21. Winner and guest will receive round-trip transportation between airport and hotel
  22. Winner and guest will receive four nights lodging at a four star Orlando hotel. Single room, double occupancy. Check in Tuesday, April 5, 2016; check out Saturday, April 9, 2016.
  23. Winner and guest will each receive a 4-Day Park Hopper pass
  24. Winner will receive an additional $500 in spending money (even if th winner does not choose to participate in the Disney World trip, he or she will still receive the $500 spending money)

Here are further details on the services RAINN offers:

Free, confidential, 24/7 support through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org).

Survivors who call 800.656.HOPE are connected to help in their local community through RAINN’s partnership with more than 1,000 sexual assault service provides across the country.

RAINN also offers live support through our Online Hotline (online.rainn.org) — an anonymous and secure web-based hotline that works much like instant messenger. In 2015, the Online Hotline expanded to offer services in Spanish at rainn.org/es.

RAINN operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense, serving survivors of sexual violence in the military. Help is available through phone (877-995-5247), online, and through Safe HelpRoom, a group chat service — where survivors can support one another in a moderated and secure online environment.

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