The Naked Truth/Jamala Rogers
Sorting the truth in the Bill Cosby
I admit that I was skeptical when the first rape accusation against Bill Cosby came
out. My skepticism was not about inherently not believing rape victims; I’ve been
working on violence against women for too many years to be in that camp. However, I
could not be oblivious to the history of Black men being falsely accused of rape by
white women. Neither should I be dismissive of America’s treatment of Black men
who get too big for their britches. But I was convinced of Cosby’s guilt long before the
recent retrial of sexual assault of Andrea Constand, which found the comedian-actor
guilty on all three counts.
Many fans of The Cosby Show and its spin-offs were deeply disappointed in the
daddy icon who has been long looked up to by kids of all races and their parents.
Despite the preponderance of evidence, there are too many that may still believe in
Cosby’s innocence. Stars in the eyes for powerful people have that kind of negative
impact on the vulnerable public. We give these predators a pass because of who
they are and because we love them.
This unconditional support of super-stars (and some not so super) is a critical
reason why women are reluctant to come forth when any form of sexual assault has
been committed. It’s an environment that smacks a victim into shame and silence,
whether they are seven years young or 37 years old.
No matter how I’ve talked about rape from the standpoint of power and control — and
having little to do with sex — I can’t count the number of debates I’ve had with men
and women about what a woman did to deserve such a horrific assault. What about
the shirt skirt she was wearing? And what time did she go to that man’s hotel room?
Why would he have to rape her when he can get any woman he wants? How can it
be rape when she knows him?
Sadly, these biased questions have prevailed throughout the years. My hope is that
the #Me Too and the #Times Up Movements are going to take the issue of sexual
violence to a much deeper place. A place where people can truly understand the
underlying reasons for sexual control. A place where there’s a believing community
support system to embrace a victim and not vilify him or her. A place where
victimizers also get what they need in the form of psychological help and
Cosby victims go back a long time. Some attempted to tell their stories or file
charges, but were often met with hostility and cynicism. Barbara Bowman was only
17-years-old when she first made claims that Cosby drugged and raped her some
thirty years ago. Bowman added her voice and story with the parade of Cosby
accusers who finally, and some reluctantly, came forward.
The public finally heard that these stories have been swirling in Hollywood for
decades. We finally heard that in Constand’s 2005 lawsuit that Cosby admitted to the
use of Quaaludes and giving women Benadryl to cause drowsiness. The exact
number of Cosby victims will probably never be known because in addition to rape,
there was the groping, attempted rape and other forms of sexual harassment that
women endured and attempted to move on with their lives.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 68 percent of
sexual assaults don’t get reported to authorities, which means that 98 percent of the
victimizers will not face the justice they deserve. The refusal to believe a female has
little to do with whether their attacker is a super-star. There are predators on the
lower rung who have gotten away with their dastardly deeds simply because they
were males and their voices carry more weight in a patriarchal society.
I refused to shed a tear when heavy-weight boxer Mike Tyson went to jail or when
Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein crashed from grace. I won’t have any tears for
Bill Cosby — sadness for his wife and kids who must suffer the shame he selfishly
bought on them. We must all commit to working together to make sure time’s up on
sexual predators regardless of the race, popularity or status.