I will say it forthrightly and without qualification: Bill Cosby is a rapist

Note: This posting has been updated (in line) and corrected since it was first published. See in-line updates and the notice at the end.

Fourteen [Update, November 19, 2014: Make it fifteen as Janice Dickinson has added her name to the list of Bill Cosby’s accusers.[1]] [Update, November 24, 2014: And now the number is sixteen.[2]] women have now come forward over a period of decades to say that they were raped or sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby.[3]

I will henceforth cease to refer to these claims as allegations. To do so is to admit a possibility that all fourteen fifteen sixteen of these women are liars. And the notion that women often lie about or exaggerate  instances of rape and sexual assault is, as George Will apparently still refuses to learn,[4] a rape myth.[5] To accept such an assertion is to be complicit with the rapist in minimizing or dismissing his crime.

So I will say it forthrightly and without qualification: Bill Cosby is a rapist.

Even so, Barbara Bowman and the other women who were raped would be fully justified in saying, “Kinda late, now.” In her Washington Post op-ed, Bowman narrates her experience, but also levels an indictment against the rest of us. We didn’t believe her when she told her story.[6] When Andrea Constand accepted an out-of-court settlement with Cosby’s legal team, we—not just the courts, not just the lawyers, but all of us—too readily “relegat[ed] the other women’s testimony to the dust bin.”[7]

I am not going to indulge in speculation as to why this happened. It’s nothing new, of course, but,

As Bowman notes in her article, it’s both encouraging and disheartening to realize that the public tide has only now turned against Cosby because a man repeated the same claims that have been loudly shouted out by the actual victims for almost a decade. Bowman is also right in describing the reaction of distrust when it comes to rape allegations, whether against famous people or not.

In 2012, U.K. researcher Clare Gunby and others surveyed a group of adults ages 18-24, finding that 47.7 percent of the men and 33.6 percent of the women believed that a significant amount of rape claims brought to the police were fraudulent. Smaller studies and interviews of law enforcement officials have found a similar skepticism of sexual assault claims.

It was that very skepticism that has allowed Cosby to escape closer scrutiny about the allegations for so long, playing to people’s disbelief that such a jovial, charismatic man could do something so horrible. For most in the media, Cosby’s refusal to answer questions about his “personal life” after the trial was a good enough excuse to avoid discussing it at all; leaving themselves free of the burden to reconcile his cultural impact from the man himself.[8]

What is important is not only that the rapes and sexual assaults occurred but that we human beings preferred his story to theirs. The fact that one man’s denial and evasion outweighed the testimony of thirteen (now fourteen fifteen sixteen) women lays bare our misogyny.

Writing for the Grio, Javier David calls Bill Cosby to task. As Cosby has expected of other Blacks, he must now hold himself accountable.[9] So must the rest of us.

Correction, November 24, 2014: As originally written, this post referred to rape, not sexual assault. In fact, some of Cosby’s accusers apparently managed to avoid being raped.[10] The text has been corrected.

  1. [1]Chicago note: Chris Witherspoon, “Supermodel Janice Dickinson: ‘Bill Cosby Raped me’,” Grio, November 18, 2014, http://thegrio.com/2014/11/18/janice-dickinson-bill-cosby-rape/
  2. [2]Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi, and Mary Pat Flaherty, “Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby – through the stories of his accusers,” Independent, November 24, 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/revealed-the-case-against-bill-cosby–through-the-stories-of-his-accusers-9878773.html
  3. [3]Eddy Cara, “13 women accused Bill Cosby of rape—but it only took one man to make us care,” Daily Dot, November 18, 2014, http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/hannibal-buress-bill-cosby-rape-accusers/
  4. [4]Travis Gettys, “George Will defends rape column, saying critics don’t take rape seriously and maybe can’t read,” Raw Story, June 20, 2014, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/06/20/george-will-defends-rape-column-saying-critics-dont-take-rape-seriously-and-maybe-cant-read/; George F. Will, “Colleges become the victims of progressivism,” Washington Post, June 6, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-will-college-become-the-victims-of-progressivism/2014/06/06/e90e73b4-eb50-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html
  5. [5]Jen Gunter, “An OB/GYN’s Open Letter To George Will About His Rape Column,” Talking Points Memo, June 16, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/an-ob-gyn-s-open-letter-to-george-will-about-his-rape-column
  6. [6]Barbara Bowman, “Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?” Washington Post, November 13, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/13/bill-cosby-raped-me-why-did-it-take-30-years-for-people-to-believe-my-story/
  7. [7]Eddy Cara, “13 women accused Bill Cosby of rape—but it only took one man to make us care,” Daily Dot, November 18, 2014, http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/hannibal-buress-bill-cosby-rape-accusers/
  8. [8]Eddy Cara, “13 women accused Bill Cosby of rape—but it only took one man to make us care,” Daily Dot, November 18, 2014, http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/hannibal-buress-bill-cosby-rape-accusers/
  9. [9]Javier E. David, “Dear Bill Cosby, heed your own advice and be accountable,” Grio, November 18, 2014, http://thegrio.com/2014/11/18/bill-cosby-rape-allegations-silence/
  10. [10]Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi, and Mary Pat Flaherty, “Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby – through the stories of his accusers,” Independent, November 24, 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/revealed-the-case-against-bill-cosby–through-the-stories-of-his-accusers-9878773.html

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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