(CNN) — Actor Terry Crews called on men to speak more about sexual assault — both as victims and their roles perpetuating sexual violence — in order to lessen the stigma survivors face in American life.
Crews was speaking Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. The actor, who went public in October 2017 accusing a Hollywood executive of groping him at an industry event, cited the “cult of toxic masculinity” throughout the testimony as a primary perpetrator for the prevalence of sexual assault against women and other men alike.
He remarked that manhood “tends to be ‘cultish,'” and men will “protect each other,” even if at the expense of a victim, resulting in a “complicit system.”
The “silence,” Crews said, is “deafening when it comes to men talking about this issue.”
Crews spoke alongside Amanda Nyugen, whose initial draft and advocacy efforts for the bill led to its signing by President Barack Obama in October 2016. The bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support, provides federal rights to survivors of sexual assault, such as the preservation of rape kits and evidence at the discretion of the victim.
Fielding questions from senators, Crews and Nyugen spoke about ways in ways to improve federal conduct towards victims of sexual assault, as well as their own experiences as survivors.
Referencing the January 2015 rape by Brock Turner, Crews furthered, “You’re talking about women who are raped, thrown behind dumpsters, and their dads say, ‘Hey, we shouldn’t ruin his life because it’s a good time.'”
The way to fix this problem, as Crews emphasized, is through male “accountability.” And for Crews, this meant “taking a stand,” even if it meant sacrificing opportunities in Hollywood.
Despite having appeared in the previous three movies in the series, Crews said he turned down his role in “The Expendables 4” due to a producer threatening him “trouble” unless Crews dropped the accusations against the Hollywood executive.
CNN has reached out to the producers of “Expendables 4” for comment.
Crews did not go public with his experience until more than a year after he was initially assaulted in 2016. He did not feel comfortable with doing so until hearing the “empowering” stories of the #MeToo movement and the victims of Harvey Weinstein.
After going public with his assault, Crews faced “ostracism and shame” from men, especially “other black men.” Yet, he emphasized that “being vulnerable and authentic” to men about his experiences as a survivor have helped others come out with their stories too.
In the moments after his assault, which he described as having occurred in a public setting with his wife alongside him, Crews said he “held back” from reacting violently.
When pressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, about why he had chosen restraint, Crews became emotional.
“As a black man in America,” he said, “You only have a few shots at success. You only have a few chances to make yourself a viable member of a community.”
“I’m from Flint, Michigan. I have seen many, many young black men who were provoked into violence, and they went to prison. Or, they were killed. They’re not here,” Crews said.
— Annie Geng
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