To Terry Crews, being a victim of sexual harassment or assault is to be a “prisoner of war.”
“When a person of power breaks that boundary and violates that boundary, you’re a prisoner of war,” he told Michael Strahan in an interview on Good Morning America that detailed his groping claim against Hollywood agent Adam Venit. “Immediately you’re in a camp ’cause you’re trying to figure out when is the right time to come out. [Is it when] the guard turns her head? When they leave a door open? You’re diggin’ tunnels with spoons, you’re trying to find a way out, and you get out and then you finally find freedom and somebody says, ‘It must not be that bad. You should’ve came out sooner.’ And you’re like, ‘I’m free. I finally got free,’ and this is the thing that a lot of people just don’t understand and they end up blaming the victim.”
Through a series of tweets posted in October, Crews claimed he was groped by “a high level Hollywood executive.” It was later revealed to be Venit, now-former head of the motion picture department of the WME agency, when the actor filed a police report. EW has learned WME suspended Venit and demoted him for his role as they probe Crews’ claim.
“My wife and I were at an event with Adam Sandler — and the thing is, [Venit is] also Adam Sandler’s agent, he’s Sylvester Stallone’s agent, he’s Eddie Murphy’s agent, and he’s connected to probably everyone I know in the business,” Crews told Strahan.
“I have never had a conversation with him ever,” he added. “I knew of him and I knew just because it’s an agency thing. But the first time I actually had an interaction with him was at this event and I’m literally, I’m looking at him, and he’s basically staring at me and he’s sticking his tongue out — just overtly sexual tongue moves.”
Crews explained how he put himself between Venit and his wife, Rebecca King-Crews, because he didn’t understand “with this tongue thing” what was going on. “He keeps coming over to me,” he continued. “I stick my hand out and he literally takes his hand and puts it [on] and squeezes my genitals.”
Crews recalled rebuffing the grope and asking Venit, “What are you doing?” But he said the agent continued his advances. “I really got forceful, pushed him back, he bumps into all the other partygoers and he starts giggling and laughing.” Crews added, “I have never felt more emasculated, more objectified. I was horrified. I went over to Adam [Sandler] right then and there and was like, ‘Adam, come get your boy! What is his problem?’”
He remembered Sandler also looking confused by the situation. “It’s so bizarre,” Crews remarked. “I wake up every morning wondering, ‘Did this really happen?’ It’s nuts.”
King-Crews, who witnessed the whole encounter, warned her husband to prepare for a situation like this. “When I looked at him, it was rage,” he said. “When I say rage, I felt like I could punch a hole in his head. But this is the deal: My wife told me three years earlier, she said, ‘Terry, you can never handle any situation like this with violence. You are a target. You are gonna be baited and pulled.'”
“If I would have just retaliated in defense, I would be under the jail right now and that’s one thing I knew of being a large African-American man in America,” Crews added. “I would’ve immediately been seen as a thug.”
Leaving the party after about 30 minutes, Crews’ wife calmed him down in the car by repeating, “I’m proud of you.”
“People need to be held accountable, Mike,” Crews told Strahan. “This is the deal about Hollywood: It’s an abuse of power. This guy — again, he’s one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, and he looked at me at the end as if [to say], ‘Who’s going to believe you?'”
He initially tried to put the memory in the back of his mind, but when the stories about Harvey Weinstein began coming out, he experienced “PTSD” from that night with Venit. “I was going, “Oh my God, this exact thing happened to me. I understand why [women] won’t come forward.'”
Watch Crews on Good Morning America in the video above.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Vinet took a leave of absence from his position, per previous reports. He has been suspended and demoted.