In the wake of Weinstein’s downfall, we’ve cheered for those who’ve stood up against alleged abusers, and shown support for those who’ve spoken out. Somehow, Terry Crews has gotten lost in this conversation as he seeks justice against the Hollywood heavy-hitter who sexually assaulted him last year. We at Pajiba are also guilty of this, mostly mentioning Crews in round-ups among a dizzying wall of news. He deserves better.
In February of 2016, Terry Crews and Rebecca King-Crews, his wife of 27 years, attended a party hosted by Adam Sandler at Hutchinson’s Restaurant in West Hollywood. There, for the first time, Crews met Adam Venit, the agent who represents not only Sandler, but also Emma Stone, Diane Keaton, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy and many others. “(Venit) is the head of the motion picture department at William Morris Endeavor, one of the biggest agencies in the world, period,” Crews told Good Morning America in a frank interview last month. “He’s connected to probably everyone I know.”
Venit is powerful. Venit knows everyone. Protected by his position and all his famous friends, Venit had no reason to fear negative repercussions for his actions.
According to Crews, Venit began their interaction by staring at him, and sticking his tongue out in an “overtly sexual” way. “Is this a joke?” Crews said remembering the moment. “I don’t understand. 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.”
From there Crews got physical, admitting he pushed Venit away, knocking the agent into other guests at the crowded party. And Venit? Venit laughed. “Let me tell you,” Crews said to GMA, “I have never felt more emasculated, more objectified, more horrified.”
In the conversation over sexual misconduct, there’s a constant grumble about victims misreading flirtation, as if the behavior being called out is purely sexual in nature. It’s not. It’s not about sex, romance, or love connections gone awry. It’s about power. Abusers exert their power over their victims, whether this means dangling the promise of a star-making role to lure them into a hotel room where a robe-wearing producer lies in wait, or using their position as a respected actor as a free pass to grope, or utilizing their office at a national news building as a headquarters for assault and harassment. It’s all about power. That’s how Adam Venit could grope a towering, muscle-bound NFL star turned beloved TV star at a Hollywood party, full of witnesses, including Crews’s own wife. These abusers believe they are untouchable, and so they can touch others without consequences. It’s time we show them they are wrong by neither turning a blind eye to their actions, nor a deaf ear to their victims.
Crews told his own agent about the incident the following day. He did not press charges at the time, because of Hollywood’s “unspoken policy of not punishing executives and agents for misconduct.” But he did contact WME, who assured Crews that they would address the matter. Still, there was no word of repercussions until the Brooklyn Nine Nine star took his story public on Twitter. Then, WME suspended Venit. Yet, Venit is already back in their offices. But Crews is not backing down. He’s taken his case to the Los Angeles Police Department, and is filing a lawsuit. (More on that in a bit.)
And what is Crews getting for his efforts? Criticism from the likes of talk show host Wendy Williams, who said after his GMA interview, “Do I think it was brave of him to come out. I said, ‘No, it’s not brave, he’s just talking.’” And much of the rest of Hollywood is either ignoring Crews, or—in the case of Russell Simmons, who is facing accusations of his own—asking him to move on.
I cannot recommend enough that you read BET’s piece on Hollywood’s cold-shouldering of Crews, and the unique obstacles he faces as a Black man speaking out about sexual assault.
Just yesterday, social media went gaga over talk show host John Oliver for questioning Dustin Hoffman over the actor’s sexual misconduct allegations during an eventful Wag The Dog Q&A. And what Oliver did was great, using his position of power to ask the questions so many of us wish we could. He did a brave thing. But what Crews is doing is braver and harder. And where’s his cheering section?
We need to do better. If you believe women, believe Terry Crews. If you believe we should support the victims, and champion their cause, tweet at the guy and tell him you hear him. Because his fight is far from over.
Yesterday, Crews announced he is suing Adam Venit and WME for assault, battery, sexual battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and negligent retention and supervision. In the complaint, attorney Bryan Sullivan writes, “Venit, upon his first meeting Crews, viciously grabbed Crews’ penis and testicles so hard that it caused Crews immediate pain in a blatant and unprovoked sexual assault.”
In the complaint, Crews shares other details, like how Sandler seemed shocked when told of Venit’s behavior, and called Crews the next day to check in on him. Venit also called, apologizing and insisting, “he was just not himself that night.” Basically, like Hoffman, Venit claims his actions are “not reflective of who I am now.”
Crews will not be silenced. He will not back down. And he’s not just seeking justice for himself. He’s fighting for lasting change in an industry that has too long catered to bullies and abusers.
In his lawsuit complaint, Crews makes it clear:
“Given the history of inaction by WME and the retaliatory actions that have occurred and likely will occur, Crews had no choice [but] to bring this action to protect himself and to stand up for all victims of sexual predators. After all, if Crews, a 6’4”, muscled, man, former professional athlete, with a long list of entertainment industry credits, can be the victim of sexual assault at the hands of a much more powerful individual in the entertainment industry, anyone can be a victim.”(emphasis ours)