According to the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, an organization that focuses entirely on protecting sexual freedom and ending sexual violence, 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime but many believe that number is conservative. In October 2017, African American actor, Terry Crews shared his story of being sexually assaulted by Adam Venit, Head of the motion picture department of William Morris. He filed a report to the LAPD about the alleged assault. His candor in sharing his story brought an onslaught of conversations and criticism. Today on the blog, guest writer, Kawana Williams shares her thoughts on why we dismiss the stories of sexual assault when it comes to black men.
#HimToo by Kwana Williams
I’m typically not an advocate for the actions of black men beyond being a single father (having been raised by one). As a woman, I voice my opinions based on the fact that I am a woman. And as a woman, I am aware that certain things move me more than others because they affect me differently. I am also aware that it is uncommon for a man to speak to, or about, certain things at all. Advocating for one’s self as a black man seems to be all but impossible in a world that places its weight strategically upon the center of his back. So when Terry Crews came forward this past October about sexual harassment he was victim to, I was disgusted by the response of his fellow brethren and sistren: both black and performing. “Why would he come forward NOW?” “How did he let dude get away with that?” “Man, that couldn’t have been me…..not in front of my wife!!!!!” “Shit, big as Terry is……why didn’t he just fire off on dude? He had to have liked it.”
(Face palms self)…..BRUH………
The reactions of black men and women to Crew’s admission proves that we, as a people, are not fully aware of the foundations and ramifications of sexual abuse/assault. The fact of the matter is, and has always been, this: sexual abuse/assault is not at all about sex; it is about power. That is why there are uncles who still attend Thanksgiving dinner after ravishing their niece for over a year. That is why the female babysitter your mother so desperately depended on remained so despite her deepest “affections” for you as a child. That is why pop artists like Ke$ha remained in contracts binding her to the very man taking sexual advantage of her (and had been since her career’s inception). That is why your mother’s boyfriend remained her boyfriend at all. So to ask any of these questions of Crew’s, or any sexual victim, is as ignorant as the day is long in an Indian summer. Let us look beyond these things and dig deeper into the actual questions being posed about his admission:
“Why did he come forward now?” “How did he let dude get away with that?”
WHY DOES THAT MATTER???? Statistics show that 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male, and 3% of American men (1 in 33) have experienced sexual assault/harassment of some sort. Add this to the fact that up to 86% of victims never report their assault/harassment (both male and female), numbers can tell you all you need to know. If the math does not add up, perhaps common sense will: most victims don’t come forward out of fear…..several layers of fear. Ask yourself why you did not immediately tell you grandmother that grandpa was playing “House” with you while she was at church, THEN ask why Crews did not come forward until now.
“Man, that couldn’t have been me…not in front of my wife!!!”
Actually, it just as easily could have been. There is this perception that power gives a damn who is around when it decides to show up and flex its muscles. That is not how real life works. People in positions of power do things while in that position because they know they can. They do not think; they do not assume; they do not imply. They KNOW. Period. And any time you have to question whether knocking someone out in front of your family is worth the career you have fought tooth and nail to get, you are not really in a position of power to fight anything or anyone. Your ego has no place here; power dynamics do not leave room for it.
“Shit, big as Terry is….why didn’t he just fire off this dude? He had to have liked it.”
(Face palms self again). If we are going to talk about this, let us go ahead and talk about it: if a woman has 5 orgasms during a sexual assault but reports it 3 months later, does that mean that she enjoyed it? Does that mean she was reminiscing about it prior to reporting it just to hold onto the memory? COME ON NOW!!!!! What Crews liked was his career and his ability to provide for his family: as any man would. And he is a 6’3, almost 300 pound mass of melanated muscle. And he was attacked by a white man who was, by contrast, both smaller than Crews by stature and larger than him by power and reach in Hollywood. Let us not act like we do not know what label would have been placed on Crews, even in defense of himself: “Angry Black Actor Attacks Innocent, High-Powered Hollywood Agent.” And anything “big” and “black” has no true place in Hollywood. It never has. Crew’s career would have been tanked at that very moment, no matter the circumstance.
How hilarious is it that we as a people, will beg and plead and demand that our men be more vocal about their pain, just to have one do so and be ridiculed? And what’s worse: he was ridiculed most harshly by both his professional cohorts and his own community of people. THIS is why victims, male and female alike, do not come forward at the onset of a sexual assault/harassment: everyone has everything to say but the right thing: “What can I do to help?” How dare we, as a people, condemn a man for coming forward with something that most would have never had the courage to admit? Why is it so fucking hard for us to rally around one of our own when they are in pain?
My prayers go out to Terry Crews and his family. My most sincere prayers, however, go out to the mindsets of my own people. We’re so steeped in our own ignorance, dysfunction, and muteness in times of pain that we can’t even acknowledge someone else’s without question. Such a shame.
Kawana N. Williams is a native Chicagoan and the author of, “Coming to My Crossroads", a memoir about her diagnosis of and struggles with ovarian cancer. She is currently a licensed Professional counselor with the State of Illinois and a second year doctoral student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology