Like seemingly everyone else, I used to have a lot of respect for Bill Cosby. I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Cosby Show – though I watched it off and on for years – but its spinoff A Different World, about students at a black college, started during my freshman year in college and I was an instant fan.
Somehow I missed the news in 2006 that fourteen women had accused Bill Cosby of drugging them and raping them. He was being sued for sexual assault by the former Director of Operations of Temple University’s Women Basketball Program. They had met through her job, they’d become friends and she saw him as a mentor. One evening, he called her and invited her over to his house to discuss her desire to change careers. When she told him how stressed she was about changing jobs, he offered her some “herbal medicine”, which she took. Next thing she knew, she was dizzy, couldn’t walk and Cosby was helping her lie down on his couch, and then he was sexually assaulting her. She lost consciousness and woke up feeling raw in her vaginal area.
After the woman came out with her story, the Cosby team proceeded to demonize her in the media. But that caused other women to come forward with their own similar experiences . In all, thirteen women said they would testify to being drugged and raped by Cosby. Other women reached out to the victims also with similar stories, but were not willing to risk the public opprobrium that came with testifying. At the end, they didn’t have to. Cosby settled for an undisclosed amount. None of the other women sued him. The story resurfaced again when Cosby announced he’d star in a new show playing a wise family patriarch.
This is the kind of story that I don’t want to believe. As one commentator suggested, who wants to live in a world where Dr. Huxtable is a serial rapist? But Dr. Huxtable was a character as is the Bill Cosby we know from the media, whose image was undoubtedly carefully crafted by public relations agents and managers. The reality is that when thirteen women who have nothing to gain, put their careers and reputations at stake to speak their truth about a powerful man, I believe them. I’m disgusted at Bill Cosby.
I’m also disgusted that he’s given a pass. Brian Copeland, a local comedian whom I consider a friend, proudly posted a photo of himself next to Cosby on his Facebook page. I commented with links to interviews with two of the women whom Cosby raped, Tamara Green and Barbara Bowman. Brian deleted them, as he deleted other comments about Cosby’s sexual assaults, arguing that “Bill Cosby is a friend”. If someone is famous enough, rich enough, or is your friend, the fact that he drugs and rapes women apparently is of no consequence. It’s of even of less consequence to NBC and anyone else who hopes to make money from him.
The impunity that Bill Cosby enjoys does nothing but encourage other would-be-rapists to act on their drives. People who support Woody Allen, have argued that his daughter’s allegations that he molested her as a child are not credible because other children have not come out with similar allegations. In this case, fourteen women tell similar stories, showing a pattern that spanned decades. But if you like Bill Cosby, it’s easy enough to dismiss them, make up reasons why they don’t deserve to be believed. By doing so, of course, you help support the culture of rape in which we live.
Sexual assault is different from other crimes in that it most often happens in private, without witnesses. When the rapist and his victim know each other, it usually becomes a “she says/he says” scenario, with consent as the main issue. Indeed, Cosby did claim that he had consensual sex with the woman who sued him. Whatever physical evidence there is, can, after all, only prove sex – even bruises can be argued to come from consensual “rough sex“. So-called “date rape drugs” dissipate from the body so quickly, that prosecutions in those cases are extremely difficult.
Bill Cosby is a rapist. Fourteen women have said so, and there is no reason whatsoever why they shouldn’t be believed. He will not go to jail for what he did – and, given due process considerations, he probably shouldn’t -, but he should at least suffer the same social opprobrium that he subjected his victims to.
(This article has been modified for grammar).