Terry Crews' Statement About Sexual Assault Is A Powerful Look At The Questions We Ask Victims
Long one of the most vocal male allies in the #MeToo movement, Terry Crews defended his assault claims on Twitter again on Friday, this time taking aim at the traditional, victim-blaming questions often asked of victims of sexual assault and harassment. His tweet was short and simple, and yet it's abundantly clear from the actor's tone that he's growing frustrated by the atmosphere of disbelief that still surrounds his claims. In the June 29 posting, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star speaks with the voice of his critics as well as himself in a sort of victim-blaming call-and-response.
The message, tweeted to his nearly one million followers, rhetorically asks and answers seven of the biggest criticisms of Crews' behavior that have come his way since first going public with his own allegations in October 2017. "Why didn't you say something?" or "Why didn't you press charges?" are just a few of the questions featured in Crews' tweet. And the former pro-athlete offers an answer to every question, until he reaches the final question: "Why didn't you beat him up?" When it comes to that question, all Crews can do is sigh, a response that could be tied to his realization that these questions may never stop. After months on the defensive, there doesn't seem to be any answer that Crews can give that will satisfy his critics.
In October 2017, the 49-year-old went public with allegations of unwanted groping in a series of 16 tweets. Crews detailed allegations against an unnamed "high level Hollywood executive" who the actor alleges groped his genitals at a party. Later, the former football player added a name to his allegations: William Morris Endeavor executive Adam Venit. (In response to a lawsuit filed against him by Crews, Us Weekly reports that Venit claimed he could not be held responsible because he didn't injure Crews, and alleged that his conduct wasn't sexual. In March, Variety reported that prosecutors elected not to charge Venit with any crime, as they determined that the statute of limitations had run out for a misdemeanor.)
His recent post on the subject echo sentiments he stated during his testimony at a Senate hearing on assault and harassment, where he spoke to promote the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights. At the hearing, California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked for Crews to state why he hadn't defended himself physically during his alleged assault. The answer, she said, was important for the record.
"Senator, as a black man in America..." he began, before cutting off with a sigh. "Say it as it is, I think it's important," Feinstein urged, and Crews continued:
"You only have 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 black men who were provoked into violence. And they were imprisoned, or they were killed. And they're not here."
Because of that experience, and the historical treatment of black men in our society, Crews said he had spent years preparing for a moment like this one, adding:
"My wife for years prepared me. She said, 'If you ever get goaded, 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, I'll be honest with you. It was the strength of my wife, who trained me and told me, '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."
As a black man in America, Crews is aware that had he used violence on his alleged attacker, he would have been the one in trouble with the law. Feinstein later shared a video of his response on Twitter, noting that it was an illustration of "how victims are too often forced into silence to avoid damaging their careers or reputations."
Crews' response and his subsequent tweet signify one simple truth: the victim or survivor will always be asked why they did not do more to fend off an attack, even if they did everything they could within the parameters of reason. And if Crews can help end this constant badgering of victims, you can bet, he's going to do try.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.