July 30, 2018
Last year allegations of sexual assault surrounding film producer Harvey Weinstein sparked a new movement in Hollywood.
Further allegations made against others in the industry, including actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K. and co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter, helped trigger a public discussion about sexual misconduct within Hollywood.
The Hollywood sex scandal dominated headlines. It was uncovered for the first time in regards to media publications, with high profile figures including Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne and Angelina Jolie all sharing their experiences.
After American actress Alyssa Milano encouraged victims of sexual assault and harassment to tweet about their experience using the hashtag ‘#MeToo’, the discussion spread outside of Hollywood.
Thousands of people shared their stories, giving a sense of the magnitude of the issue.
While it was predominantly women who shared their experiences, men also revealed incidents’ of abuse, emphasising the fact it’s a problem for both sexes.
One of these men was actor Terry Crews, who’s best known for playing Sergeant Terry Jeffords in the sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Hale Caesar in The Expendables series of films.
In a thread posted on Twitter in October last year, Crews explained how the news of the Weinstein scandal was ‘giving him PTSD’.
Publicly speaking about his experience with sexual assault for the first time ever, Crews wrote about how he was groped by a ‘high level Hollywood executive’ during a function in 2016.
Crews admitted, although he thought about fighting back, he decided against it, concerned with how the media may have reported on the incident.
He then added, after sharing his story with people in the industry, he received a phone call the next day from alleged perpetrator, Adam Venit – head of the motion picture department at talent company, William Morris Endeavour (WME) – apologising.
However, he failed to give a reason as to why the assault happened.
Following the allegation, WME investigated the incident, concluding it was isolated. They gave Venit a one month suspension as well as demoting him from his previous role.
Although Crews also filed a lawsuit against Venit and WME for sexual assault, prosecutors decided not to pursue charges, with the city’s attorney’s office claiming the statute of limitations had expired due to Crews delaying reporting the incident.
Now a dedicated activist against sexual misconduct, Crews emphasises how the reason it took him time to speak out about the incident, was because he felt uncomfortable due to the stigma which surrounds male sexual assault.
Unfortunately, Crews isn’t the only one afraid to share their story.
According to non-profit organisation 1in6, research has found at least one in six men have experienced sexual abuse or assault.
Furthermore, they add this is ‘probably a low estimate’ as it doesn’t include ‘non-contact experiences’.
Significantly, the research concluded report rates amongst men are very low, which is thought to be because of the stigma which surrounds it.
Anthony Edwards, a board member of 1in6 who came out with his own story in November, told UNILAD, although the #MeToo movement has indeed helped minimise the stigma, there’s still plenty of work to be done.
#MeToo has already done so much to help remove the shame and the stigma that keeps survivors silent and that includes men.
Movements like #MeToo move the needle and allow men to break free from some of the stereotypes and expectations that keep them from not only sharing their stories, but also from seeking help.
That said, male sexual abuse and assault still has a ways to go in terms of acknowledgement and support. We still often hear, ‘really, that happens to men?’
We need education to break stigma and help people to spot symptoms and situations that affect young survivors, psychological support for men who have recognised their trauma and want to find a path to healing and funding for the issue.
This issue remains extraordinarily difficult to fund due to the stigma and the lack of funding opportunities out there.
As Edwards then emphasises, organisations including 1in6 find it ‘extraordinarily difficult’ to get funding due to the ‘lack of opportunities’, but most importantly, ‘the stigma’ that still exists.
Duncan Craig, Chief Executive Officer at Survivors Manchester, agrees, stating the discussion triggered by the Hollywood sex scandal ‘felt like it was focused on females’ with not much being said about the male survivors.
I think the #MeToo movement has brought about a really important conversation about sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
Everyone is now so aware of the incredibly inspiring women that have stepped forward and stated publicly that enough is enough.
But whilst the movement is about the issue of sexual assault and harassment, people associate it very much with the unwanted sexual attention that women get, for some reason it sort of felt like it focused on females.
Who’s talking about Anthony Rapp and Terry Crews? I guess that’s where the hashtag #HeToo was born from.
But even in this time, I think there’s still a reluctance to talk about the reality of the problem or maybe the actual size of the problem.
Craig, along with Survivors Manchester, are encouraging people to ‘break the silence’ to reduce the stigma, which is where public figures such as Terry Crews come in.
Since his Twitter thread, Crews has spoken publicly, and regularly, about his experience, and the issue of sexual assault, including giving an emotional testimony before a US Senate committee last month.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the proposed Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights legislation, Crews testified in favour of the bill, sharing his experience once more.
Crews regularly uses his celebrity status to raise awareness of the issue of male sexual assault.
He’s discussed it in interviews as well as on social media.
As Edwards emphasises, this is key. Given that so many people look up to celebrities such as Crews, they’re more likely to listen.
If celebrities can shine a light on something that has been hidden due to the silence and shame, then they can be part of the solution.
Celebrities have a platform and when we use that platform to share something like an experience of sexual abuse or assault, it really does reach people, and what it communicates to men out there is that they are not alone.
No one is immune to sexual abuse or assault. When we share that truth, we open the door for more men to move away from the shame and toward healing.
Crews’ message has certainly reached hundreds of men, and women, many of whom have reached out to the actor on social media to thank him for showing them there’s no shame in seeking help and sharing their stories.
There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding male sexual abuse including the belief it can only happens to gay men, or it makes you weak and unmanly. Some have even said sexual abuse makes you gay.
Beliefs such as the ones mentioned don’t do anything to help the stigma of male sexual abuse, and they don’t encourage survivors to seek help.
With Crews being what many would call a ‘strong male’, perhaps due to his physique, Craig believes it’s especially important for him to talk about the moment which made him vulnerable, showing it can happen to anyone:
I think people who have a public profile, stepping forward certainly does create an environment for change, and for people to speak out themselves. In Terry Crews speaking out I think it tackled a number of issues head on.
First of all, here’s a man who’s a standard representation of heterosexuality and masculinity. A muscular, strong, black male who is an ex-athlete, talking about a moment in time when someone else made him vulnerable, another male, and there was nothing he can do to defend himself.
Him speaking out showed us the power of male vulnerability and how the hierarchy of the male means nothing in the face of sexual abuse.
Crews really is an inspiration to all, but especially male sexual assault survivors, emphasising there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and if you seek help, you willreceive it.
We just all need to help ‘break the silence’, just like Crews is doing.
It’s important to remember anyone can be sexually abused, men, women and even children.
The Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on its website or on its helpline – 0808 800 5005.
Local support agencies for all male and female survivors can be found at The Survivors’ Trust.
For more information on where to get help or to chat to someone in confidence, you can visit 1in6’s website.