Since the Me Too Movement started last October, Terry Crews has been a vocal advocate for speaking out about sexual harassment and breaking down the stereotypes associated with it. Most notably, the ideas that men can’t be victims and that coming forward makes them “weak.” He detailed his own sexual assault experience from 2016 when “Hollywood executive” Adam Venit grabbed his genitals at an industry function. Crews has been open about the incident in an effort to keep the Me Too dialogue going and appeared before the U.S. Senate this week to tell his story again and advocate for a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights.
“This past year, we have seen powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere finally held accountable for sexual harassment and assault,” he told the Senate, “We also saw the backlash survivors faced after coming forward. I wanted these survivors to know that I believe them, I supported them and that this happened to me too.”
“I am honored to use my platform and story to help create additional civil rights protections for survivors across the nation under the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights.”
WATCH – @terrycrews full opening statement: “I am honored to use my platform and story to help create additional civil rights protections for survivors across the nation under the Sexual Assault #SurvivorsBillofRights.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 26, 2018
I addition to retelling his assault, Crews called attention to the “culture of toxic masculinity” that allows some men to use their power and authority to dominate women and other men, as well as keep them quiet after the fact. He admitted to being guilty of buying into sexist stereotypes in his past that encouraged him to believe that as “a man” he was stronger and better than women and that his role as “the man” meant he should be dominant in every situation.
He says all that ended in 2016 when he realized, through his own sexual assault, exactly how it feels to be disrespected, humiliated and made to feel helpless in such an intimate way.
“The assualt lasted only minutes, but what [Venit] was effectively telling me — as he held my genitals in his hand — was that he held the power; that he was in control,” Crews said.
He went on to talk about the toxic masculinity that shames victims for “taking a joke too seriously” or trivializes their experiences as “not abuse.” He pointed out that a culture that discredits women and victims is something “no one wants” and that until men change, that culture will remain intact.
“Men need to hold other men accountable,” he said, “That is the only way this system is going to change.”
Terry Crews on toxic masculinity and being vulnerable with other men: “I’ve been in the NFL. I’ve been with the toughest, strong guys ever, and we’ve talked about these things and been in tears together. We came out of this thing more manly than when we went in.” pic.twitter.com/L2oiXMDHCJ
— Krystie Lee Yandoli (@KrystieLYandoli) June 26, 2018
He also got real about the added complications of being a black man in America. Senator Diane Feinstein asked Crews why he didn’t use his “considerable strength” to fight back against his assailant. His answer is one shared by many victims of abuse: you only get so many chances at success in your career, can you afford to come forward and possibly ruin any chance of ever joining that community as an equal?
“I’m from Flint, Michigan. I’ve seen many, many black men who were provoked into violence,” Crews said, “And they are in prison and/or they were killed. They’re not here.
“My wife, for years, prepared me. She said, ‘If you ever get goaded, if you ever get provoked, if you ever have anyone try to push you into any situation, don’t do it. Don’t be violent.’ And she trained me.,” he continued, “I’ll be honest with you, it was the strength of my wife that trained me and told me that if this situation happens, let’s leave.”
I asked @TerryCrews why he didn’t use his considerable strength to fight back when he was sexually assaulted. His answer is a powerful reminder of how victims are too often forced into silence to avoid damaging their careers or reputations. We need to hear the truth. pic.twitter.com/8xSxnhXj91
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) June 26, 2018
Crews received huge support online for his testimony. Fans, fellow celebrities and advocates all voiced appreciation for the actor’s bravery and commitment to speaking out for change.
This is so frigging powerful and illuminating. @terrycrews had multiple layers stacked against him – race, size, profile – that his options to deal with a situation were reduced to near zero https://t.co/Yxi1W50LkE
— Tim Culpan (@tculpan) June 26, 2018
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) June 26, 2018
So very proud of you friend. 💕
— Melissa Fumero (@melissafumero) June 26, 2018
— Grace 🦋 (@GraceFVictory) June 26, 2018
Terry had me in tears with his testimony on sexual assault. I’m so inspired by his work, and hope the Senate expands on the Survivors’ Bill of Rights.
— • m a r i • (@mariestherbella) June 26, 2018
I love Terry Crews. I don’t have a joke or anything witty to add. I just think he’s a wonderful and strong person doing a lot of good work at a difficult time.
— Super Deluxe (@superdeluxe) June 26, 2018
The Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights focuses on various measures that would make taking legal action against abusers easier for victims. It focuses on preserving rape kits and taking other precautions to allow victims time to process their experience and distance themselves from it before reporting to law enforcement if they so desire.