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Credit: Sharon Lee

Actor Terry Crews talked about his experience as a sexual assault survivor, about "toxic masculinity," and about his activism in the #MeToo movement Sunday night at Penn. The Social Planning and Events Committee hosted the event featuring Crews, a former NFL player and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" television actor. It was moderated by Malik Washington, Penn's associate director of Sexual Violence Prevention & Education.

Crews first spoke publicly about his sexual assault in October 2017 when the #MeToo movement erupted, which he described on Sunday to the audience at Irvine Auditorium.

Crews said he was groped in 2016 by Adam Venit, former head of the talent company William Morris Endeavor. Crews later dropped the agency and filed a suit against Venit in December. However, prosecutors eventually decided not to press charges against his alleged attacker.

While women in Hollywood began talking publicly about their experiences with sexual misconduct, Crews was one of the few men to come forward. 

“It was an out of body experience,” Crews said at the event. He added that he experienced a feeling of “helplessness” and struggled to pay for the expensive trial fees, even as a wealthy actor.

College junior Matthew Dougherty, co-director of SPEC Connaissance, said Crews was a “perfect” speaker to bring to campus and engage the Penn community. Dougherty praised the actor’s involvement in the #MeToo movement and his openness in talking about issues surrounding masculinity.

Credit: Sharon Lee

Crews also spoke about the trauma of growing up with an overbearing mother and an abusive father who struggled with alcoholism. He said he frequently saw his father physically assault his mother.

“A lot of things became clear to me in a wrong way,” he said. 

While Crews sought to protect his mother, he said he began developing his father’s traits of toxic masculinity. Crews said his father influenced his behavior, making him “part of a complicit system.”

“You choose who you are, but the only way you learn is through imitation,” he said.

Crews talked about his cheating on his wife, his addiction to porn, and his practice of staying silent as friends would disrespect women. It wasn't until he checked into rehab that he was able to make changes in his life. 

Since his sexual assault, Crews has been involved in the #MeToo movement and continues to advocate for stemming the negative influence of toxic masculinity. Concluding his talk, Crews said it was important for him to continue to be open about his personal experiences.

“This is my therapy session,” Crews said.