The Importance of Terry Crews
Last month, actor, activist and all-round great human Terry Crews gave a testimony on sexual assault to the Senate in the USA for the 'Survivors Bill of Rights' Hearing (a bill created by Amanda Nguyen, another survivor). Crews, who stars as the wonderful Terry in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and starred in Deadpool 2, was one of the (relatively) few men who came forward about sexual harassment and assault in the 'Me Too' movement in the Entertainment industry last Autumn. When he saw the amount of women coming forward in the wake of the Weinstein abuse, Crews tweeted, authentically and without reproach, about how a Hollywood agent had sexually assaulted him at a party in 2016. He wanted people to know that he believed them, and that people in silence could, if they wanted to, speak out with power and truth about the crimes powerful people committed against them. Crews also took the time to acknowledge the 'cult of toxic masculinity' that was rampant throughout the industry.
In tweets and in his testimony, Crews recounts how he didn't do anything at the time, for fear of the story being twisted, for fear of his race and masculinity being used against him if he reacted in any way, violently or otherwise. In the clip itself, shown here, a Senator at the hearing asks why he didn't do anything physically at the time, saying "you're a big powerful man, why didn't you (motions pushing)". Sadly, this type of reaction to Crews', and many other male survivors, perpetuates the myth that men "can't be raped", that they are "weak" if they are ever assaulted. What people don't always understand, often unless they have lived the experience, is that no matter who you are, someone can use their power over you. You may think you will react in a certain way, but your mind and your body actually work to try and protect you, even though you might not consider it that way. There's the Fight or Flight response - but there's also the lesser talked about Freeze response. Whether you Freeze as a way of preventing further bodily harm, or in Crews' case, if your mind steps in and reasons that Freezing, not doing anything, will be better for you in the long run, it is a legitimate, valid, and extremely common response for people being assaulted or abused in any way.
Crews' case is so important because he speaks of the reality of this Freezing response. It is furthermore important as he highlights the reality for Black men in America, and globally, if they are to react aggressively to situations such as the one forced upon him. Crews admits he wanted to react violently - but he had been conditioned to know that the danger of this reaction was probably more grave than the violation that was already happening to him. The crime committed against Crews was about power, and it was about humiliation. That Hollywood agent thought he could do whatever he wanted to Crews' and get away with it, and for a short while, he did. As Crews recounts, direct repercussions of his speaking out about the assault have already impacted his career - the producer of 'The Expendables', which Crews was a star in, called Crews' agent to tell him to 'drop the case' or else there would 'be trouble'. At the hearing, another Senate member asks 'are you going to be in the fourth instalment, I hope'... this time, a downright ridiculous question. Crews had just told them about the threatening language and silencing the producer of the film has used against him, and they proceed to 'hope' he'll be starring in it?! Bloody hell, America. Crews reacts to this question calmly, and incredibly politely, and informs them that this producer, whilst also being vile to Crews, is also an accused abuser. As Crews succinctly puts it 'abusers protect abusers' - and he wants to be no part of that, so he drew the line, and put his priorities and loyalties to justice first by refusing to be a part of the franchise.
Crews is an icon, first in sport, then in film and television, and now in the movement of justice for survivors. He is an inspiration to survivors, to male survivors, and especially to black male survivors, who can see themselves represented as a valid and much needed part of the movement. Assault and abuse doesn't just happen to women, it doesn't just happen to a certain type of person, it can, and does, happen to anyone. Crews is strong. Yes, physically. Yet more importantly, he is strong emotionally, as he has come face to face with the people who violated him and tried to silence him in humiliation. He knew what happened to him was wrong, and he took it upon himself to highlight the injustice and the truth of what happens to people like him in the industry. His open and honest testimonies about what his perpetrator did to him, and the aftermath, is so important for people to see. Crews' survival, tenacity and prevailing kindness have inspired me constantly in my recovery. His allyship, his imperfection and his proactive attitude have been used to light the way all survivors should have the ability to speak of their experiences and break through their unwanted silence.
To land on a light note, as Terry Crews always makes me happy, and as it is his birthday after all, here's the Best clips of him in my favourite character in B99 - Happy Birthday, fellow Leo!