When Terry Crews opened up about an alleged sexual assault he experienced at the hands of WME agent Adam Venit in October, he understood the inherent risks: What if no one believes you? What if you can’t find work again? What if you’re ostracized from the industry?
In a sprawling new interview with BuzzFeed, Crews unpacks these concerns and explains the dangers of speaking out against the powerful in an industry that he likens to a violent plantation.
The piece comes after a few weeks of tough setbacks for Crews, as his legal measures against Venit have been stalled—both the district attorney’s office and the city attorney’s office in Los Angeles have thrown out his case in recent weeks. But he’s still speaking up about Hollywood’s toxic racism and the intimidation faced by those who challenge the immovable power structures:
“People don’t understand that Hollywood is a very violent place,” he continued. “The best way to put it is that it’s like a plantation. You use extreme violence. You see a lot of people who never work again. For even speaking up the whole thing is that they cut your head off so that the next person doesn’t speak.”
You don’t have to strain to find recent examples of survivors or black artists calling attention to inequality and facing severe consequences in Hollywood. There’s Mo’Nique, who says she was blackballed from the industry after she refused to play the game following her Oscar win for Precious and has since called attention to Netflix’s insane pay gap.
The New York Times published the stories of six women—working within and outside Hollywood—who claimed that they were denied future opportunities after reporting sexual misconduct to human resources. On the most powerful level, Harvey Weinstein employed a complex network of private investigators to keep tabs on actresses and journalists.
Crews fears this could happen to him, too, but seems willing to cede another Expendables sequel for the chance to speak freely about his past trauma, and empower others to do the same:
“They don’t want to see me comment, but I’m not going anywhere,” Crews said of his relationship to Hollywood these past few months. “They lead this thing through shame. [They] shame you so you feel like you gotta hide in the house. …[But] once you get rid of shame, you get to step off the slave plantation. And I get to be free. This is a good thing.”
Don’t go anywhere, Terry.