In early 2016, Terry Crews was attending a party at a West Hollywood restaurant. His wife, Rebecca King-Crews, was with him. At the party also was Adam Venit, all-powerful agent and the head of the motion picture department at William Morris Endeavor, one of the biggest talent agencies in the world. At one point in the evening, Venit came over to Crews and began behaving lewdly towards him by sticking his tongue out in an ‘overtly sexual way’. Crews was confused, not understanding whether this was meant to be a joke or not. From then, Venit—who represents A-listers such as Sylvester Stallone, Emma Stone, and Adam Sandler—escalated things. According to Crews’ recollection of the moment, Venit kept returning to him, and kept carrying on in a lascivious way. Crews: ‘It’s actually so bizarre. He keeps coming over to me. I stick my hand out (to shake), and he literally takes his hand, and puts it, and squeezes my genitals. And I jump back, like, ‘Hey! HEY.’ And he’s like sticking his tongue out and all this stuff. And I go, ‘Dude, what are you doing?! WHAT are you doing?” And then he comes back again. He just won’t stop.’
Horrified, Crews pushed Venit away. The agent laughed. Crews and his wife promptly left.
Yesterday, Terry Crews testified to Congress about the abuse, and in doing so he responded to a question from Senator Dianne Feinstein as to why he did not use his considerable physical power to fight back against the abuser. Crews’ response is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever heard. In one short, eloquent statement, he dissects the nature of power, putting it under the miscroscope and through a very personal lens revealing how it relates to the axis of race, money, and sexual abuse in America. Listen:
I asked @TerryCrews why he didn’t use his considerable strength to fight back when he was sexually assaulted. His answer is a powerful reminder of how victims are too often forced into silence to avoid damaging their careers or reputations. We need to hear the truth. pic.twitter.com/8xSxnhXj91— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) June 26, 2018
Here, because nothing deserves a transcript more:
Senator, as a Black man in America, you’ve only got a few shots at success. You only have a few chances to make yourself a viable member of the community.
I’m from Flint, Michigan. I have seen many, many young Black men, who were provoked into violence, and they were imprisoned, or they were killed, and they’re not here.
My wife, for years, prepared me. She said, ‘If you ever get goaded, of if you ever get prodded, if you ever have anyone try to push you into any kind of situation, don’t do it. Don’t be violent.’
And she trained me—and I’ll be honest with you: It was the strength of my wife, who trained me and told me that if this situation happens, let’s leave.
And the training worked. Because I did not go into my first reaction. I grabbed her hand, we left.
But the next day, I went right to the agency—I have texts, I have phone conversations—and I said: ‘This is unacceptable’. And I told them how I almost got violent, but didn’t. And I said: ‘What are you going to do, about this predator roaming your hallways?’ And you know what I was told? ‘We’re gonna do everything in our power. We’re gonna handle this, Terry. You’re right, it is unacceptable.’
And then they disappeared.
The dawn of the #MeToo movement has seen curtain after curtain being pulled back on the movie industry. The world is realising—and being told—what women have always known: That there are men out there, men in positions of power, protected men, getting away with heinous acts of sexual abuse. They are getting away with it because they make money for others. Monsters like Harvey Weinstein, who was enabled for years by men who did not see themselves as monsters, men who turned a blind eye and didn’t kick up a fuss because the monster kept their world spinning. Then the monster’s money-making power waned, and his behaviour was allowed to catch up with him. The brave women who came forward with their stories were finally allowed to be heard, and some measure of consequence finally caught up to the monster.
But that’s not how it usually goes. Usually people like Weinstein get to keep doing whatever they want, because they have power, and because those around them do not challenge them. If the sea change that has begun with #MeToo is to continue, if it is to result in lasting change, men will need to step up. They will need to stop enabling, stop dismissing, and they will need to recognise the toxic nature of masculinity that pervades our society and informs parts of even the best of us. Terry Crews has proven himself a shining example to men everywhere. He has become an ally and an advocate who passionately believes in dismantling this awful system that we have allowed to grow up around us. Whether it’s by engaging and providing valuable, clear-eyed contributions to the debate; or by behaving in such a way so as to provide a progressive counter to the preponderance of awful idols of masculinity that we are assailed with; or indeed by testifying so incisively as he did yesterday in Congress, Terry Crews has become someone for whom the term ‘hero’ seems very appropriate indeed. Solidarity, Terry. We stand with you. You are not alone.