Actor, former athlete and activist Terry Crews told students Thursday that even the strongest are not immune to sexual assault, counting himself as a victim.
Crews rippled his muscles and in the same speech to students at Farmingdale State College, gave a somber and motivational account of his emergence from an abusive home, channeling his anger and learning to speak up about sexual abuse.
“Sexual assault is a real problem and I am a witness,” Crews said. “I’m here to tell you that you are valuable. You have to know nothing can diminish your value as a human being and you have the right to protect yourself and set your boundaries.”
Farmingdale State officials invited Crews to speak to nearly 1,500 students for Sexual Assault Awareness Month after he famously came out in 2017 to tell his story of sexual assault, named as one of Time magazine’s persons of the year as one of the “Silence Breakers” during the #MeToo Movement.
Farmingdale State College President John S. Nader said it was one of the largest crowds the college has seen in years and called Crews “a genuine powerhouse."
Crews was also promoting his second memoir, “Tough,” about channeling his emotions, combating his demons and learning to confront his truths and abusers.
Crews spoke publicly about his own assault in 2016 when he said he was repeatedly groped by a William Morris Endeavor executive at a party for Adam Sandler.
He said he controlled his anger and left the party, and then went public with his story. He later settled a lawsuit with the movie studio.
“Would you have believed me if I knocked this man out? I knew it would be the end [of his career] and I knew there was a better way and I became this male figure for sexual assault,” Crews said. “Some people said I was too big to be assaulted. That’s like saying you’re too big to be shot. It happened.”
But Crews said his restraint came only after years of therapy.
“I was about to flip into the old Terry and punch a hole in his face,” Crews said. “I went home and my wife said, ‘I’m proud of you.’ And it saved my life.”
Crews, who grew up in Flint, Michigan, described the struggling auto industry and the emergence of the crack epidemic there. He said he lived with an alcoholic father who abused his mother, and then he found an escape through football.
He channeled his rage into playing football and it led him to a six-year career in the NFL. But he said he didn’t even like the game, it was just a way to shed his anger.
He went on to a career in acting, where he said he hit rock bottom and learned to take care of himself.
“I was very successful and there was an image I created, that was a fictional Terry Crews,” he said. “Success is the warmest place to hide and I hid behind that guy.”