You probably recognize Terry Crews. Maybe as the soft-hearted sergeant on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” the flirtatious Latrell Spencer from “White Chicks” or as a professional football player. He is hard to miss—245 pounds, six feet and three inches of pure muscle. Even so, he has an unmistakable comedic and lovable air to him. He’s a nice guy, but can certainly handle his own.
You look at this famous actor and former athlete—and I can bet the word “sexual assault survivor” never comes to mind.
Terry Crews came forward about his experience with sexual assault in October of 2017. He talked about it on Twitter and gave his testimony for the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, detailing an experience he had with a Hollywood executive in which he was belittled and violated. He discussed how the #MeToo movement motivated him to come to terms with what happened—even when countless people told him his experience was invalid.
After coming forward, he has received countless support, along with backlash. Backlash as in unless he agreed to drop his case, he would not be in the fourth installment of the Expendables franchise. Backlash from the likes of rapper 50 Cent, who mocked Crews on a now deleted Instagram post. Backlash that adds to the toxic culture of invalidating male victims of sexual assault.
In the United States, 1 in 6 men are raped and/or sexually assaulted. Around 10 percent of rape survivors outside of criminal institutions are male. High school students Zorely de la Rosa and Travis Ambroise estimated that the percent of male rape victims is only 6 and 2 percent, significantly lower than the reality.
1in6.org helps bring clarity to what the words “sexual assault” means—unwanted sexual experience involving force, coercion, unconsciousness or age difference.
Men, and women, like 50 Cent who shame people coming forward as victims add to the part of rape culture often ignored—the fact that men can and are sexually assaulted. Many men do not come forward with their experiences and if they do, they are made into caricatures, forcing them into hiding. It is an issue that takes toll on all survivors.
We have all heard the blame placed on female survivors before—she was dressed too provocatively, she was too drunk, she didn’t say no—even when the only one at fault is the rapist. The misandrist attitude towards men comes in when they are the ones on the opposite end of the situation. De la Rosa said “People in general would find it odd if a guy does not want to have sex, let alone someone coming onto him and him denying it.”
Some argue men should be able to stand up for themselves and fight back. This idea alone negates male victims who are children. Children like Jaidyn Tucker, who had been continually molested by an adult at his after school program for months. Invalidating male victims can lead to men who were victims as children to deter from coming forward and get justice, or even just closure.
There are so many reasons survivors do not come forward. Terry Crews himself discussed how for him, he realized that as a black man, he was at a disadvantage and there were unfair consequences if he stood up for himself.
“Senator, as a black man in America,” he said in his testimony, “You only have a few shots at success. You only have a few chances you make yourself a viable member of the community.” The next day, he called the agency and told them about what happened—and nothing was fixed. In fact, 10 percent of Crews’ income from season six of his show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will go to the company that still employs the man who molested him, Adam Venit. Countless people who he told the experience about brushed it aside, and told him what had happened was not assault, and he should leave it alone. “I can only imagine it makes men feel like they have been stripped from their own humanity and are only seen as sexual beings,” de la Rosa said.
It is incredibly unfortunate we live in a world where we must fear being shamed as survivors. Not victims, but survivors. Survivors of a crime any person can live through. No matter gender, race, age, size or stature. No matter what, every case and every person who comes forward should be treated with the same rights as the one before them.