Just five days after the Weinstein allegations surfaced, Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews shared his own account of sexual assault on Twitter. Crews tweeted that a "high-level Hollywood executive," who he later identified as talent agent Adam Venit, groped his genitals at a party in 2016. Last week, Crews filed a lawsuit against Venit and his employer William Morris Endeavor over the assault.
Crews, who was recently named as a "Silence Breaker" in TIME's Person of the Year issue, spoke with NPR about what inspired him to come forward about his own assault and what he hopes his lawsuit will accomplish.
"Once the Weinstein story broke, and these women were coming out and saying what he did, and I just kept hearing ... 'Oh boy, these women, here they come, they just want attention and a payday,'" Crews told the outlet. "And I got angry. I got really angry, because I said, 'They're being dismissed, like this stuff is happening, it happens, it happened to me.'"
Although everyone who comes forward about sexual assault is subjected to doubt and shaming, male victims (especially adults) are often subjected to additional stigmatisation. In Crews' case, his race also impacted the response to his allegation against Venit. As he told NPR, "white racists" have branded him a coward and "black extremists" have labelled him the "weakest black man of all time."
But, as he expressed in his initial Twitter thread, Crews was keenly aware of the optics of the situation. Venit, a white man, allegedly groped him in a public space and if Crews had physically retaliated in the moment, his behaviour is what would have made headlines.
"[Y]ou're talking about a country where a little kid is walking with a pack of Skittles and gets harassed by a man and the kid ends up dead, and the harasser is still walking around free," Crews told NPR.
He also emphasised that the lawsuit against Venit and WME isn't about revenge — it's about accountability. Crews said he has to constantly remind himself that he has nothing to be ashamed of and he did nothing wrong, a struggle that's common among survivors of sexual abuse.
"[S]omehow our society is wired for the victim to take the whole brunt of shame," he told NPR. "Because if no one gets a pass, if everyone holds everyone accountable every time, the whole system will be disciplined into knowing how to behave because this is all about not accepting this foul behaviour."
In addition to reminding us that men aren't immune from sexual assault, Crews has also been extremely conscious to use his platform to raise awareness about what men can do to combat sexual violence against women. In fact, he used his TIME interview to focus on the importance of men holding other men accountable.
Crews' voice has been invaluable in the "Me Too" movement and, fortunately for us, it doesn't seem like he's going to stop talking about this issue any time soon.
Refinery29 has reached out to the William Morris Endeavor for comment.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.
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