Haasch: We need more of Terry Crews’ masculinity

Actor Terry Crews has been both outspoken and vulnerable after coming forward about his assault, becoming a leader and role model for many.

Palmer Haasch

Terry Crews wears many hats; actor, Old Spice guy, former NFL player and father are just a few of them. The “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star is also an open survivor of sexual assault and a vocal advocate. Spurred on by the initial news about Harvey Weinstein’s long history as an abuser, Crews came forward last October with his own story of sexual assault. Sharing his experiences through a Twitter thread, Crews outlines how he was groped at a party by a Hollywood executive in front of his wife and his decision to not take action at the party — more importantly, how his decision not to directly confront the man in the moment — was informed by his identity as a black man and the ramifications that followed. Among many other facts, Crews’ actions and his statement reveal one thing: we need more of Crews’ masculinity in our world. 

Since the initial thread, Crews hasn’t stepped out of the spotlight and has remained a vocal member of the #MeToo movement — standing out as one of its most prominent male voices alongside actors like Anthony Rapp, who last October accused Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him when he was 14 years old. Since initially coming forward, Crews has become involved with Rise, a civil rights nonprofit best known for drafting and passing the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights through Congress, which assures basic, comprehensive rights for all survivors of sexual assault. Crews testified last week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the bill. 

Simply coming forward and sharing his experiences is a feat in and of itself; reliving trauma and exposing yourself to a public space is far from simple. Crews has done so in a way that highlights the way his identity as a black man influenced his decision to not physically resist his assaulter and with an awareness of what his status as a male survivor of sexual assault means. Crews practiced restraint in the moment, following his wife’s guidance. When asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., about why he held back despite his physical dominance, he replied, “As a black man in America, you only have a few shots at success, you only have a few chances to make yourself a viable member of the community… I have seen many young black men who were provoked into violence. They were in prison or they were killed. They’re not here.”

Crews’ answer exposes the stark reality of how victims are coerced into silence by existing power structures, and in particular how black men are cornered into silence. In Crews’ case, his career was at stake and has taken a hit since he came forward: the actor left the fourth “Expendables” film after one of the film’s producers told him to drop the sexual assault case or there would be consequences. Crews’ resilience while navigating and detailing the power structures that restricted him during and after his assault represents the kind of masculinity that we sorely need. Vulnerable, honest, strong men are necessary today and always. Crews’ voice should stand as a beacon both for survivors of sexual assault and those in search of a male role model.

I love Crews, for his acting just as much as his activism. The work he’s doing and the example he’s setting are dually incredible and necessary.