With most of the media’s eyes trained on the Supreme Court Tuesday morning, actor and former NFL player Terry Crews quietly delivered a powerful condemnation of “toxic masculinity” on Capitol Hill.
Crews, a star of the sitcom Brooklyn 99 who is also known for roles like the Trump-esque President Camacho in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to make the case for legislation known as The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, as proposed by Rise founder Amanda Nguyen. And he was speaking from personal experience.
“I am an actor, author, former athlete, advocate and a survivor of a sexual assault,” Crews said by way of introduction. After a year in which many powerful abusers in Hollywood were finally held to account and the mostly women who spoke out against them were subject to often vicious backlash, Crews said, “I wanted these survivors to know that I believe them, I supported them and that this happened to me too.”
Last October, just days after the Harvey Weinstein story broke, Crews came forward with his own story of sexual assault by the hands of a “high-level Hollywood executive” who would later be revealed to be William Morris Endeavor's Adam Venit. According to Crews, Venit “groped” his genitals at a party in 2016.
In his testimony, Crews said that incident made him want to come forward and “reflect on the cult of toxic masculinity that exists in our society.” He also connected that experience to watching his own father “violently abuse” his mother when he was a young child. He swore to himself that when he grew up he would not be like his father, but also acknowledged his own shortcomings, including the belief that “as a man” he was “more valuable in this world than women.”
“This is how toxic masculinity permeates culture,” he added, repeating that loaded phrase once again. He explained that as he shared the story about his assault, he was “told over and over that this was not abuse, that this was just a joke, that this was just horseplay.” He now knows that “one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”
“I’m not a small or insecure man,” Crews said. “But in that moment, and in the time following, I’ve never felt more emasculated.”
Crews ended his opening statement by outlining why this legislation must be passed in all 50 states. “Every man, woman and child deserves to be seen as equal under the law,” he said. “The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights does just that by recognizing survivors’ basic civil rights.”
“While we can draw attention to a culture of toxic masculinity and the need to disrupt power dynamics,” he concluded, “this bill creates long term change and gives power and control back to survivors.”
Matthew A. Cherry, another former pro-football player-turned-filmmaker, tweeted after the testimony, “Proud of you sir. Former NFLers represent!”
As for Crews’ alleged abuser, prosecutors declined to file charges against him because the incident was past its statute of limitations. Crews is still pursuing a civil complaint against Venit, who returned to WME after a 30-day suspension. “SOMEONE GOT A PASS,” Crews tweeted in response last November.