On Tuesday, Brooklyn Nine-Nine star and former NFL linebacker Terry Crews testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to advocate for H.R. 5578, the bill often referred to as the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. In a stirring, vulnerable account, Crews detailed the profound impact of the sexual assault he first alleged last October in a series of tweets.
“The assault lasted only minutes, but what he was effectively telling me while he held my genitals in his hand was that he held the power,” Crews said (without naming Adam Venit, the William Morris Endeavor agent against whom he has filed both a police report and a lawsuit in conjunction with the alleged groping incident). “That he was in control.” (Venit issued a general denial of Crews’s claims, and Crews’s lawsuit was eventually rejected by prosecutors per the statute of limitations.)
In his testimony, Crews shared that he had chosen to leave the Expendables franchise to “take a stand” in the wake of his lawsuit against Venit, a high-powered agent who represents the likes of Adam Sandler and Sylvester Stallone: “The producer of that film called my manager and asked him to drop my case in order for me to be in the fourth installment of the movie, and if I didn’t there would be trouble,” Crews said, noting that he chose to leave the production largely because producer Avi Lerner has been protecting Venit. The actor went on to share other ways his account had already been minimized, and reiterated that sexual abuse is neither laughable nor uncommon:
I was told over and over that this was not abuse. That this was just a joke. That this was just horseplay. But I can say that one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation. And I chose to tell my story and share my experience to stand in solidarity with millions of other survivors in the world. That I know how hard it is to come forward. I know the shame associated with assault.
Since the first few days after The New York Times and The New Yorker published their watershed investigations into the alleged predations of Harvey Weinstein, Crews has lent his voice—and his stature—to the subsequent outpouring of #MeToo narratives. The actor is not new to addressing toxic masculinity; he has been advocating against men’s allegiance to harmful gender roles for years. His 2014 book, Manhood: How to Be a Better Man—or Just Live With One, traced the actor’s experiences with living alongside an alcoholic father, admitting to a pornography addiction, and slowly abandoning the “Marlboro Man” ideal of masculinity. But now he has named himself as an affected party rather than just an enthusiastic ally.