Shortly after the news about Harvey Weinstein broke, Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor Terry Crews shared his own account of being assaulted by a high-level Hollywood executive in solidarity with the women who came forward. It has since come out that the executive was William Morris Endeavor agent Adam Venit, and Crews has filed a police report against Venit for groping him at an event.
In an interview today with Good Morning America, Crews and host Michael Strahan talk about Crews’ experience and the anger, hurt, and shame he felt as a result. Venit, who repped Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, and Sylvester Stallone, appeared to use a power dynamic to his advantage, as Crews recalls: “He’s connected to probably everyone I know in the business. This is the thing: I did not know this man. I have never had a conversation with him, ever. OK? I knew of him … The first time I ever actually had an interaction with him was at this event.”
Crews then describes being at the event with his wife, seeing Venit stick his tongue out at him in “overtly sexual” ways, and feeling incredibly confused. “And I’m looking like, ‘Is this a joke? I don’t understand.’ It was actually so bizarre,” he says. “And he keeps coming over to me. I stick my hand out and he literally takes his hand and puts it, squeezes my genitals. And I jump back like, ‘Hey, hey!’ … I go, ‘Dude, what are you doing?'” The actor states that Venit didn’t stop after this first incident, and after pushing him away forcefully after a second encounter, the agent started giggling.
“I have never felt more emasculated,” says Crews. “More objectified. I was horrified.”
Infuriatingly, despite the anger and horror that Crews felt, the actor also talks about the pressure not to start a scene or a fight for fear of being labelled an angry black man. “If I had just retaliated in defense I would be in jail right now. That’s one thing I knew, being a large African-American man in America. I would immediately be seen as a thug.”
When asked what he hopes will come from this, Crews says, “People need to be held accountable … This is the deal with Hollywood. This is an abuse of power. This guy, again, he’s one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, and he looked at me in the end as if, ‘Who’s going to believe you?'”
However, while the actor decided at the time to put the incident behind him, this month changed his mind.
“When the Weinstein thing started happening, I got PTSD. I was going ‘Oh my god! This exact thing was happening to me!’ I understand why they won’t come forward. And let me tell you, a lot of times people go, ‘Well, why didn’t you come forward sooner?’ When a person in power breaks that boundary and violates that boundary, you are a prisoner of war … ‘Cause you’re trying to figure out when is the right time to come out? When does the guard turn their head, when they leave a door open—and you’re digging a tunnel with spoons trying to find a way out.”
“And you get out,” he continues, “and then you finally find freedom and someone says, ‘Well, it must not be that bad. You should’ve came out sooner.’ … A lot of people just don’t understand, and they end up blaming the victim. And I have totally said, ‘I will not be shamed. I did nothing wrong. Nothing.'”
Crews’ interview continues with the actor talking about how empowered he felt hearing women share their stories and the way that harassment and assault attacks the goals and aspirations of its victims. His story reminds us how often victims are silenced by fear and power and demonstrates how much strength it takes for survivors to come forward.
(via Pajiba, image: screencap)
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