Terry Crews talks toxic masculinity, #MeToo with Nelson Mandela students

Terry Crews visited Nelson Mandela High School in Calgary on Tuesday to share his experiences with toxic masculinity, domestic violence and the #MeToo movement.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine star remembers when he was part of the problem

Actor Terry Crews addresses media after speaking to students at Nelson Mandela High School in Calgary. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

American actor and former NFL player Terry Crews visited Nelson Mandela High School in Calgary Tuesday to share his experiences with toxic masculinity, domestic violence and the #MeToo movement.

Crews is perhaps best known as an actor for his role as Sgt. Terry Jeffords on the popular American TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He was named Time magazine's person of the year in 2017 for speaking out — both to support the stories of female sexual assault survivors and share his own story as a victim.

He was at the Calgary high school to champion the importance of gender equality to the students. 

"I don't speak for women because they have been speaking so eloquently and so wonderfully for thousands of years. But the problem is that men have not heard it, men haven't heard it and I didn't hear it," Crews said.

"I remember seeing women treated in a certain way and I just went 'eh, that's the way of the world,' and I totally looked the other way. And I was part of a complicit system."

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star was in town as the keynote speaker for a fundraising gala for YW Calgary Tuesday evening.

The non-profit supports thousands of Calgary women and families each year with services like supportive housing, childcare and employment programs.

Crews thanked the YW for its work.

"I'm supporting everything you do because, let me tell you, the families and the women that you help you are changing the future as we speak," he said.

You must take care of every human being that you hurt and try your best to make amends.- Terry Crews

The actor touched on a variety of topics, from witnessing the domestic abuse of his mother at the hands of his father as a child, to negative attitudes toward women in Hollywood, to his account of being sexually assaulted by agent Adam Venit at an industry event.

"When I was molested by the head of the motion picture department at William Morris Endeavour … I had shame and I wasn't going to tell," Crews said.

He said that feeling changed when he heard women in the industry come forward with stories of abuse at the hands of producer Harvey Weinstein.

"It was crazy. Hearing that story. Their stories. I was like, that happened to me. I'm not alone. I'm not the only one anymore. I told my story."

Crews said that since the #MeToo movement has exploded there have been many apologies from abusers — but too few have been held accountable for their actions.

"People have mixed it up. They have mixed apologies with accountability. So they think that it's the same thing. So he's sorry but he was not held accountable," he said.

"You must take care of every human being that you hurt and try your best to make amends."

The message seemed to resonate with students.

"I am really glad to know that a man with power has a personality made up of equality, equity and freedom. And he is able to share that with other people and give them hope that others can't provide in tough situations," said 16-year-old Noradeen Azizi.

With files from Monty Kruger


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