Reading through six near-identical accounts of women who publicly testify that he drugged and raped them, it seems clear to me, at least, that he is a serial sexual abuser and rapist. Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? In a court of law, absolutely. In the court of public opinion? Not at all. The odds of all these women lying – when they have nothing to gain and a certain amount to lose from telling the truth – is close to zero. Or as Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it:
Believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person’s word over another—it requires you take one person’s word over 15 others.
Here’s the latest version from Janice Dickinson:
And the fact that he got away with this abuse is not at all surprising. In Britain, we now have a flurry of cases where stars in the era of peak network TV were treated by almost everyone as demi-gods: unimpeachable, untouchable, and beyond any human accountability. And they thereby got away with the rape of children, of women, of the mentally ill, and even of corpses in plain sight. Only decades later have they been called to account, but in Jimmy Savile’s case not till after his death.
That this entire issue only resurfaced because of a man’s comedy routine is also disturbing. I take Barbara Bowman’s point seriously:
Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’ performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.
While I am grateful for the new attention to Cosby’s crimes, I must ask my own questions: Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?
I don’t know. I wasn’t really aware of any of this till recently. But it seems to me the least we can do to honor these women – and accord them some way overdue respect – is to treat Cosby differently in public life.