Terry Crews’ career has taken him from the athletic field to Hollywood ― two professional spheres where toxic masculinity has been pervasive.
The “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star’s passion for speaking out against sexism and gender stereotypes, however, predates his professional achievements. As Crews was honored Tuesday by the anti-sexual violence organization Safe Horizon’s Annual Champion Awards Gala in New York, he recalled his childhood memories of his alcoholic father abusing his mother, and his mother’s perceived inability to escape that cycle.
“I literally wet the bed until I was 14 years old because I didn’t know what was gonna happen,” Crews, who appeared to be holding back tears, said in an emotional speech, above. “We lived a nightmare for years ... we were hopeless.”
The athlete, actor, author and activist has been using his platform to give a voice to male sexual assault survivors since he accused Hollywood executive Adam Venit of groping him at a party in 2016.
Coming forward with the claims, Crews said Tuesday, was “probably one of the hardest things ever.”
“One man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation,” he said. He added that he hoped his story would help others realize that “anyone anywhere can be victimized ― and no man, woman or child should ever put up with being treated as less than a human being ever. Ever!”
“When I look at this movement ... this is the Emancipation Proclamation,” he said, referring to President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 order proclaiming freedom for slaves.
Coming forward as an assault or abuse survivor, he continued, is “like flying a plane from LA to New York, and you’ve never flown a plane before.”
“You are literally digging tunnels with spoons, trying to get out, like my mother tried to get out,” he said.
Me Too founder Tarana Burke, Goldman Sachs’ co-chairman Paul Parker, and Oliver Wyman managing partner John Romeo also were honored at Tuesday’s event for advocacy work.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.