Terry Crews is a hulk of a man, standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing in at 240 pounds. He was a linebacker in the National Football League in the early 1990s, who parlayed his sparkling personality and comic talent into a successful acting career.
Moviegoers likely know Crews from his roles in absurdist comedies like “White Chicks” and “Blended,” while television fans might recognize him from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” or “Everybody Hates Chris.”
As intimidating, famous and beloved as the actor is, he wants everyone to know that even he felt afraid to come forward with his own story of being sexually harassed last year by a powerful man in Hollywood.
He didn’t want to be “ostracized,” he says.
He was a mid-level actor and his alleged assailant was a powerful Hollywood agent with the capacity to potentially squash his career.
Crews also didn’t think many people would believe him, he said on Twitter.
But after the New York Times published an exposé on Oct. 5 alleging that film producer Harvey Weinstein used his position to sexually harass and assault aspiring young women, he chose to open up.
Crews alleged that talent agent Adam Venit groped his genitals at a Hollywood party. Crews acknowledges the obvious question: Why wouldn’t a man of his muscle just wallop any predator? The actor wanted to fight him, to strike back, he has said, but feared that the situation would be misperceived since he is a large black man. He didn’t want to end up in jail or lose his career.
Crews’s perspective adds a crucial dimension to the national conversation about sexual misconduct perpetrated by powerful men: that victims feel trapped because they are professionally beholden to someone higher up the ladder, who uses his power against them. In that sense, physical size doesn’t matter. In Crews’s case, being black in America played a role, too.
But he still feels like he’s not being taken seriously. Venit has not commented on the accusation. But Venit’s employer, the William Morris Endeavor, suspended the alleged groper for 30 days — only to recently welcome him back to the workplace after deciding the alleged transgression against Crews was an isolated incident, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Crews, who was by then watching along with the rest of the country as one big-shot after another got punished with much greater severity, was enraged.
“SOMEONE GOT A PASS,” Crews tweeted about the news Monday.
The NFL-player-turned-actor began telling his story five days after the Weinstein scandal became public, while many women were sharing their painful stories of being sexually abused or harassed.
In a series of 16 tweets, Crews became one of the first men to join them. He also filed a police report against Venit with the Los Angeles Police Department.
“This whole thing with Harvey Weinstein is giving me PTSD. Why? Because this kind of thing happened to ME,” Crews tweeted Oct. 10.
The alleged incident occurred in February 2016 at a party that Crews attended with his “Blended” co-star Adam Sandler. Venit, who Crews described as “one of the most powerful men in Hollywood,” was also at the party. Crews had never met the agent.
He said he noticed Venit staring at him and “sticking his tongue out” at him in an “overtly sexual” manner.
At first, he thought it was a joke. Then Venit walked over, reached out and “squeezes my genitals” while sticking his tongue out, Crews told Strahan. Venit allegedly jumped back, then tried to grab him again, but Crews slapped his hand away.
“I felt nothing but rage,” Crews said. He wanted to hurt Venit, to “punch a hole in his head.”
But he restrained himself after remembering something his wife, Rebecca King-Crews, had told him years earlier: “She said, ‘Terry, you can never handle any situation like this with violence. You are a target.’ ”
He knew how the media and the general public might perceive the interaction.
“ ‘240 lbs. Black Man stomps out Hollywood Honcho’ would be the headline the next day,” Crews said on Twitter. He told Strahan he wouldn’t have just gone to jail, he would have been “under the jail.”
“One thing I knew, that being a large African American man in America, I would immediately be seen as a thug. But I’m not a thug. I’m an artist,” Crews told Strahan, adding, “I know how close I came to losing it all.”
So instead, he contained his anger. Crews said he and his wife left the party and he “almost ripped the steering wheel off.”
But King-Crews calmed him by grabbing his arm and repeating, “I’m proud of you.”
The actor decided to speak out because “people have to be held accountable,” he said.
“This whole thing from Weinstein to all that’s happening in Hollywood is about an abuse of power,” Crews said. “An abuse of the position you have, and what happens is they’ve fooled everyone into thinking it’s part of the job.”
Crews added that when a powerful person assaults someone lower on the professional ladder, the victim doesn’t have many options. To accuse the assailant could be disastrous to the victim’s career. And when the victim finally does speak out, the incident might be minimized.
“When a person of power breaks that boundary . . . you’re a prisoner of war. Immediately you’re in a camp, because you’re trying to figure out when is the right time to come out,” Crews told Strahan. “And then you get out, and then you finally find freedom, and someone says, ‘Well, it must not be that bad. You should have come out sooner.’ ”
Actor Aisha Tyler thanked him for telling his story in a tweet, adding, “Hopefully it makes others brave, regardless of their gender.”
His openness also sparked an online conversation focused on sexual harassment, particularly involving male victims and the black community. Crews retweeted many of those comments.
One user, who wrote, “THANK YOU FOR YOUR CANDOR!” added, “I deal with grown men everyday who are stuck in the ‘system’ of domestic abuse stemming from being molested by a mother’s boyfriend, family friend, cousin or uncle. I know that your story will help someone find” solace.
Another wrote, “You have a ministry attached to your destiny to help men shine the light on sexual abuse. Glad to see you walking in that. Truthfully wish you never had to go thru that moment but now you’re helping people.”
Crews said he refuses to feel like a victim.
“It’s so bizarre. I wake up every morning wondering, ‘Did this really happen?’ ” he told Strahan. “It was foul to the core, and it still shocks me.”
But, he added: “I will not be shamed. I did nothing wrong.”
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