The Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal has been a catalyst for men, women, and children in the entertainment industry to come forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. Dozens of accusers have bravely shared the details of these incidents. But when actor Terry Crews talked about how he was groped by an industry executive last year, another layer was added to the conversation. The focus on white female actresses shifted to this 240-pound black former NFL player. His admission was jarring.
Crews has since filed a criminal complaint with the LAPD against his alleged attacker after carrying the shame, guilt, and trauma around with him for the last year. Many have called him brave for coming forward and even more inspired by his courage to fight. But sadly, Crews isn’t the only black male to be sexually violated in the entertainment industry. Hollywood’s sex culture is said to be the industry’s worst-kept secret.
Just last week, Family Matters actor Darius McCrary revealed to TMZ that he had been molested by a Hollywood executive when he was a young man getting started in the business. In his confession, he frowned upon those who might be exploiting their alleged attackers in a quest for the limelight. He won’t name names.
“I will say this though, I was inappropriately touched by a Hollywood executive, and I’m not going to tell on nobody,” he said. “This happened when I was a young man. I’m not going to say, but that’s what it is. See, I’m not thirsty, so I ain’t gotta tell my business because I’m not thirsty.”
Considering the treatment of black men in America dating back to the slavery era, going public about sexual assault is especially difficult. In an effort to intimidate, humiliate, and control black men, slavemasters would engage in the practice of “buck-breaking.” They would brutally whip them, make them strip down, bend them over the trunk of a tree with their bare buttocks exposed, and then sodomize them in front of their wives and children who were forced to watch.
Fast-forwarding to the present day, black men are still being emasculated in every aspect of their daily lives. They are arrested and incarcerated at higher rates than any other group. In recent years, their murders at the hands of police have made headlines as these men were frequently innocent and unarmed.
And when NFL players joined Colin Kaepernick in protesting these injustices during the national anthem, they were vilified and called a “son of a b*tch” by the leader of the free world. Much like Muhammad Ali, Kaepernick has been robbed of his ability to compete and earn a living in the prime of his career. He is effectively being “broken” by the NFL. The message here? The risks and sacrifices are great when a black man stands up and fights for his freedom.
Even more heinous than the treatment of these adult black men are the assaults on helpless black male children. In 2010, actor Todd Bridges talked about being sexually assaulted by his publicist in his autobiography Killing Willis. When he reported the attack to his parents, Bridges’ mother believed him while his father did not. For the next two years, Bridges said that his attacker stalked him and there wasn’t a thing that he could do to stop the harassment. After years of drug use and self-medication, he finally told his story.
Hearing Bridges’ story inspired boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard to tell his story in his book The Big Fight. Leonard shared how he was assaulted by an Olympic boxing coach and others. In 2012, he told a crowd at Penn State that he “beat himself up for years” and turned to drugs and alcohol to keep feelings of shame at bay. The Chicago Tribune reported that Leonard saw his abuse as a huge violation of his trust.
“Trust is a very sacred thing, especially for young people, kids, or a young boxer, so I trusted these people, these individuals who impacted my life,” Leonard told the Penn State audience. “They told me everything I wanted to hear, and more.”
With women, reporting sexual assault is always accompanied by questions about what she was wearing or what else she might have done to bring the attack on herself. But with men, black men, in particular, there is a huge stigma associated with coming forward. After all, how can a man allow another to take his manhood? And if his attacker is a woman, as in the case of Tyler Perry, then why wouldn’t he just shut up and enjoy it? In either of these scenarios, his sexuality comes into question.
This is a reality that the son of Detroit Pistons legend Isiah Thomas knows all too well. Earlier this year, 28-year-old Zeke Thomas revealed that he had been raped twice in his life–once in 2016 and on another occasion when he was just 12 years old. Zeke echoed the sentiments of other black male victims in a Good Morning America interview saying that he too was ashamed and felt guilty about what happened to him. Zeke, an openly gay man, now wishes that he had spoken up.
“If I could go back, there’s 100 percent I would press charges,” Zeke said. “If we could find the assailant today, I would 100 percent press charges.”
The fact that Terry Crews has decided to fight for justice in his case sets a new precedent in Hollywood. The statute of limitations has not expired and he plans to hold his attacker accountable. Perhaps Crews’ courage to stand up will finally put in motion a movement to change the culture in Hollywood. But more importantly, his example should validate the plight of black men and empower them to join the fight.
[Featured Image by Christopher Polk/Getty Images]