Why were Bill Cosby’s accusers silent so long? There’s no shortage of think-pieces addressing this question, but I’m here to offer my own take.
[cw: discussion of sexual assault]
The cost of telling these kinds of stories is higher than you could possibly imagine. If you come forward as a victim of sexual assault, prepare to be bombarded with questions like: Why did you put yourself in that position? Why were you stupid enough to wear that dress/take those pills? Why didn’t you fight him off? Etc. etc. victim-blaming etc.
God forbid you’re a nobody, because then you’re only doing this for your fifteen minutes of fame, or for the money, or for attention. God forbid you’re a public figure, because then your own accomplishments will be overshadowed by the worst thing that has ever happened to you; a Google search of your name will turn up RAPE RAPE RAPE, which is exactly the sort of thing you want to be associated with, forever.
From that moment on, you will cease being a person and become a “victim” in the minds of the public (whether you accept the label or not), your sanity and mental health are forever in question, you are considered irrevocably damaged. You now have “problems.” Problems that make other people deeply uncomfortable, problems they don’t want to have to think about.
Not to mention that the rapist in question in this particular case —Bill Cosby— is a powerful man who has so much money and influence that it’s impossible to imagine anyone more influential; for kids who grew up watching the Cosby show (as millions did), Cosby was LITERALLY viewed as a father figure, and the man is so rich that he tried to BUY NBC in the ’90s. Please, take a moment to let that sink in.
These are stories women are discouraged from telling. We are not supposed to have “let this happen.” We are not supposed to have gone out late at night. We should not have trusted our own judgment, we should not have trusted the men who hurt us, we should have known this would happen. Chances are, you have been taught to believe these things your whole life, and part of you probably still believes them.
And if you have read this far and your takeaway is still that Cosby is “innocent until proven guilty,” consider that you are contributing to the problem. Consider that Cosby will likely never see the inside of a courtroom, that in 2006 he settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money, which was probably received by a woman who was intimidated and threatened by Cosby’s lawyers, who would not have been able to afford the kind of legal counsel available to Cosby, who wanted justice as much as you and I do (hell, more), but who realized that our society is deeply fucked up and stacked against women, who wanted her life to return to normalcy as soon as possible, who did not want to have to face Cosby again in a courtroom. To go to court would be to risk losing even more, and she had already lost enough.
(Originally published as an angry comment on Gawker.com).