Terry Crews delivered a powerful testimony condemning “toxic masculinity” and its effects on sexual assault on Capitol Hill on Tuesday (June 26). The actor explained the “critical” need for the proposed Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which was drafted by sexual assault survivor, Amanda Nguyen, and establishes consistent rules and procedures for prosecuting sexual assault crimes.
“I am an actor, author, former athlete, advocate and a survivor of a sexual assault,” Crews opened his statement. He shared his own experience accusing Adam Venit, a talent agent with William Morris Endeavor (WME), of groping his private parts at a party in 2016.
The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star felt the urgency to share his story, after The New Yorker and The New York Times published stories revealing Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual abuse throughout his career as a Hollywood producer. The investigative reports were published in October 2017 and brought light to the #MeToo movement, in which victims of sexual abuse called out several other powerful men in the entertainment industry, including Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Brett Ratner and Russell Simmons.
As these men became disgraced in the industry, they were forced to step down from their various positions and lost upcoming projects, some of their accusers were met with harsh criticism and even victim-blamed.
“We also saw the backlash survivors faced after coming forward. I wanted these survivors to know that I believed them. I supported them, and this happened to me, too. This encouraged me to come forward with my own experience and reflect on the cult of toxic masculinity that exists in our society,” Crews said in his testimony.
“Hollywood definitely has been a problem area, simply because so many people who view this as a dream. And what happens is, someone has power over these dreams … you get tricked into thinking that this type of behavior is expected, that it’s part of the job, that this harassment, abuse, even rape, is part of your job description.”
The former NFL player said because of lessons he was taught growing up in a patriarchal and misogynistic society, he learned to use his power and influence to dominate almost every situation in life. This belief, “that as a man [he] was more valuable in this world than women. As a protector and symbol of strength, [he] was more worthy and that women were beneath [him],” is what he defines as the toxic masculinity that enables abuse of not just women but anyone else who is viewed as lesser.
“What happened to me has happened to many, many other men in Hollywood,” he said. “And since I came forward with my story, I have had thousands and thousands of men come to me and say, ‘Me, too, this is my story. But I did not have the confidence, or I did not feel safe enough, to come out.’ Because what happens is, you get blacklisted, your career is in danger — after that, no one wants to work with you.”
To solidify his point that many victims do not come forward out of fear of losing work, Crews revealed that he lost his role in Expendables 4.
Message Russell Simmons sent to me regarding my sexual assault case against Adam Venit of @WME:
— terry crews (@terrycrews) November 19, 2017
In November 2017, Simmons sent an e-mail asking the White Girls co-star to drop his complaint against Venit and give him “a pass.” Crews went on to address how since using his platform to speak out against an alleged abuser with greater connections than his, other powerful people have tried to silence him.
“Abusers protect abusers. And this is one thing I had to decide: whether I was going to draw the line. Am I going to be a part of this or am I gonna take a stand? And there are projects I had to turn down.”
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
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) June 26, 2018
The Michigan native said these incidents are rampant “anywhere there is a power dynamic” and often have racial and economic components that cause victims to be silent. Despite making this point, Crews was mocked by 50 Cent, a prominent man in the entertainment industry, for not fighting back as Black man of his size and stature.
The rapper posted photos of the 49-year-old to Instagram, one of him topless with “I got raped, my wife just watched,” and the other of the actor biting down on a rose. The caption 50 Cent wrote read, “LOL. What the f*** is going on out here man? Terry: I froze in fear, they would have had to take me to jail. get the strap.”
Simmons, who has been accused of sexual misconduct and rape, commented under the now-deleted post with a laughing emoji.
— machine gun Kele (@kelechnekoff) June 26, 2018
Several commenters pointed out that 50 Cent’s behavior is a clear example of the toxic masculinity Crews highlighted and solidifies why victims are fearful of speaking up. The underlying point of the Everybody Hates Chris actor is that if these types of abuse can happen to someone like him, seen as a large powerful Black man—whom society has painted as violent— it could likely happen to anyone.
The proposed bill of rights is essential because it will help dismantle the structures that have allowed people to misuse their power and influence. Due to the statute of limitations, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office will not prosecute the actor’s criminal complaint against Venit.
Crews’ full testimony can be watched in the video above.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.