Terry Crews’ Sexual Assault Senate Testimony Includes Allegations Against ‘Expendables 4’ Producer
Yesterday, Terry Crews testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, recounting how his own allegations against Hollywood agent Adam Venit have personally — and professionally — affected him. During that testimony, Crews revealed that he won’t be appearing in Expendables 4 because the producer of the sequel, Avi Lerner, allegedly threatened “troubles” if Crews refused to withdraw his civil lawsuit against Venit.
Last fall, after a pair of damning Harvey Weinstein exposés galvanized the #MeToo movement, Crews was inspired to share his own story. According to the actor, an unnamed Hollywood agent (later revealed to be Venit) groped his genitals at a party in 2016. Although Crews filed charges with the Los Angeles City attorney’s office, nothing could be done because the statute of limitations had run out — a common problem facing many victims of sexual violence.
Crews instead filed a civil lawsuit against Venit and his agency, William Morris Endeavor (WME), which suspended the agent for 30 days while it investigated sexual harassment allegations. Venit was ultimately demoted from his position as the head of Motion Picture Development, but remains employed as an agent with WME.
Like many victims of sexual assault and harassment, Crews feared that no one would believe him if he spoke up, and that he would be met with retaliation for outing his abuser, “because,” he says, “what happens is you get blacklisted, your career is in danger — after that, no one wants to work with you.”
Such was the case, per Crews’ Senate testimony, with Expendables 4. The actor, who currently stars on the hit series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, was expected to return for the fourth installment of the all-star action franchise. But Crews says that producer Avi Lerner threatened “troubles” for him if he did not withdraw his civil suit against Venit. Lerner allegedly contacted the actor’s manager and said that he wouldn’t be able to appear in Expendables 4 unless he dropped the lawsuit.
When asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar if he’s appearing in the Expendables sequel, Crews responded (emphasis mine):
No. Simply because this same producer [Lerner] is under his own … investigation. Abusers protect abusers — and this is one thing I had to decide, whether I was going to draw the line on. Am I going to be a part of this or am I gonna take a stand, and there are projects I had to turn down.
The investigation Crews mentions is in reference to a lawsuit brought against Lerner for sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment and gender discrimination. Lerner responded to the suit by calling the allegations “a joke.”
During his Senate testimony, Crews explained that “Hollywood definitely has been a problem area” where people in positions of power take advantage of those eager to pursue their dreams:
And what happens is, someone has power over these dreams. And what happens also is that you get tricked into thinking that this type of behavior is expected, that it’s part of the job, that this harassment, abuse, even rape is part of your job description.
Although Crews’ testimony was centered on the sexual assault and misconduct problems that have plagued Hollywood for decades, his feelings and fears are painfully relatable to victims of sexual harassment and violence everywhere: The fear of being laughed off for coming forward, of not being believed by the people that are meant to protect you (like the police), and of losing your job and potential future jobs because you had the courage to speak out.
And while a sexual assault victim’s appearance is completely and utterly irrelevant to the crime committed against them, Crews’ physical attributes are part of what makes his story so notable: A former NFL player, Crews famously cuts an imposing figure; tall, muscular and prone to playing roles that subvert the expectations we have based on his hyper-masculine physique. That a man like Crews could be sexually assaulted has perhaps helped shed more light on the fact that this crime doesn’t discriminate against gender, age, race, sexuality or size.
It has also, as Crews testifies, empowered other men to share their stories:
What happened to me has happened to many many other men in Hollywood, and since I came forward with my story I have had thousands and thousands of men come to me and say ‘Me too, this is my story. But I did not have the confidence, or I did not feel safe enough, to come out.
As the #MeToo movement has shown, sexual assault and harassment isn’t limited to Hollywood and politics. It happens in bedrooms, boardrooms, in spaces both public and private; it happens to mothers and migrant workers and cashiers and tech engineers. And as Terry Crews illustrates with his courageous testimony, it happens to men, too.