Terry Crews discussed the importance of protecting survivors of sexual assault, his own experience as a survivor and the “cult of toxic masculinity that exists in our society” during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
The Judiciary Committee was holding hearings on the Sexual Assault Survivors’ “Bill of Rights,” which would codify certain rights for people reporting assault. As Crews noted in his testimony, the bill would give survivors more access to police reports, rape kit results and sexual assault counselors. It would also ensure survivors have access to government-subsidized rape kits, and that rape kits and other forensic evidence would be kept for the duration of the statute of limitations.
“[T]his bill gives survivors the right to have time to distance themselves from the immediate trauma before making the difficult decision to report the assault to law enforcement,” Crews said.
During his testimony, Crews recounted his own experience of sexual assault, which he first shared amidst the deluge of #MeToo stories that followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Crews has claimed that in 2016, a Hollywood agent grabbed his genitals at a party.
Crews said that when he tried to discuss the incident afterward, he was frequently rebuffed. “I was told over and over that this was not abuse,” Crews told the Senate. “This was just a joke. This was just horseplay. But I can say one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”
Crews did not name his abuser during his testimony, though he has filed a lawsuit against WME partner Adam Venit. As Buzzfeed points out, Crews alleged to the Judiciary Committee that after he filed the lawsuit, the producer of The Expendables 4, Avi Lerner, called his agent 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 he decided to drop out of the film after being given this ultimatum. “This same producer is under his own sexual assault investigation and abusers protect abusers,” he said. “And this is one thing I had to decide… Am I going to be a part of this or am I going to take a stand? And there are projects I had to turn down.”
Elsewhere in his testimony, Crews said that the dismissive treatment survivors often receive is proof of “how toxic masculinity permeates culture.” But he also spoke about how toxic masculinity has influenced his own perceptions of himself and women.
Crews said that as a child, he watched his father violently abuse his mother. Though he vowed to never become like his father, he said that his desire to become strong so that he could protect his mother over time transformed into a belief that “as a man, I was more valuable in this world. As a protector and symbol of strength, I was more worthy. That women were beneath me… As a man, I was taught my entire life that I must control the world. So I used power, influence and control to dominate every situation: From the football field to the film set, even in my own home with my wife and children.”
The actor also said that being assaulted in 2016 forced him to reconsider his actions and beliefs. “I’m not a small or insecure man, but in that moment, and in this time following, I’ve never felt more emasculated,” he said. “As I watched women and colleagues in my industry come forward to share their #MeToo stories, this shame washed over me again and I knew I needed to act.”
Along with Crews, the Senate Judiciary Committee also heard testimony from Amanda Nguyen, the CEO and founder of Rise. In February, actress Evan Rachel Wood testified on the Sexual Assault Survivors’ “Bill of Rights,” detailing her own experience with sexual assault.