If it looks like a fish, smells like a fish, tastes like a fish then it probably is a fish. The saga of Bill Cosby and the never-ending stories of young women drugged and molested continue to unravel like some tangled, knotted, and smelly ball of yarn. The questions of why these women didn’t come out before or why, since the first story hit the media outlets, they continue to pile on one after the other are not the most important questions to be asked. Most of the allegations against Mr. Cosby go back more than 20 or 30 years when he was at the height of his dynastic power and prowess and a superstar. The Cosby Show was one of TV’s biggest hits in the 1980s, and is credited for single-handedly reviving the sitcom genre and NBC’s ratings to number one. So how could the public persona of “America’s Dad” spiral to the depths of accused sexual deviant and serial rapist?
Granted Bill Cosby has never been charged, tried, or convicted in a court of law on any of the “allegations” that have recently sullied his personal life, integrity, and legacy. However, he has settled out of court in years past some similar charges levied against him. And he has, in years past, paid expenses, college tuition, and provided support to several young women in exchange for… what? Silence? Sexual violence and assault has reached an epidemic proportion, but it is not because there are more cases now than ever. No. It is because in 2014 greater numbers of women (and men) are more likely to report these assaults to law enforcement and others than ever before. However, we still live in a country where victims of sexual assault and violence tend to be re-victimized by the institutions charged with protecting them, the hyper sensational media, and even close friends and family that all support a “rape culture” that first discredits, questions, or blames the victim before first listening to and believing the victim’s account of the story and then investigating that account. This would give the victim the type of support and compassion that they need to begin to deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological damage they have suffered and continue to hold onto years and decades after the assault took place. Instead of support to help them through the traumatic effects of sexual assault, rape and violence, “we” ask questions like, “What were you doing there?” ” Why did you go to his room?” “Why did it take you so long to report it to anyone?” The onus of responsibility as to why the rape or assault occurred is targeted at the victim instead of the victimizer.
No one can know for certain, except the victims themselves, whether Bill Cosby assaulted them, but we cannot continue to ignore the mounting evidence however circumstantial or old it may be. Something is rotten somewhere, and there needs to be a defense mounted or an accounting made. Silence is not an option here. To speak of unspeakable things that happened to you when you were young and defenseless takes tremendous courage. It is to begin the process of healing from the trauma and to claim your life back. The truth may be difficult to look upon, but it remains the truth nonetheless. Let’s unwrap the truth and deal with the smell.
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: A whole year in front of you…