The number of women accusing Bill Cosby with sexual assault stands at a whopping 55 (and counting) and as each new allegation surfaces, the 78-year-old comedian finds his immaculate legacy in the balance.
While no criminal charges have been filed against him, that has not stopped Cosby from clapping back with a defamation lawsuit against seven of his accusers. In a lawsuit filed Monday (Dec. 14), representatives claim that the women’s “false” and “opportunistic” allegations not only mortified Cosby, but cost him job offers as well.
Cosby continues to maintain his innocence with the hopes of preserving what’s remaining of the myth of “Heathcliff Huxtable.” For decades, he has portrayed the role of America’s favorite dad, masterfully blurring the lines between his public and private lives.
Now with those lives suddenly at odds, he is intent on returning his legacy to it’s former glory — even if that means inflicting more trauma on his alleged victims.
Sadly for Mr. Cosby that ship has sailed. These accusations have left a permanent stain on the legend’s reputation and it’s time for the world to admit it: Bill Cosby is no “Heathcliff Huxtable.”
Unfortunately, Cosby’s reaction to his accusers is reminiscent of a larger trend of victim blaming in cases of sexual assault. According to a UK study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than a quarter of the public believe drunk victims of rape or sexual assault are partly responsible for what happened to them.
And the perps agree.
A separate survey conducted by JAMA Pediatrics echoes these sentiments, finding half of young adult perpetrators felt that the victim was “completely” responsible.
With 1 in 3 women experiencing sexual violence at some point in their lives, it’s safe to say that rape culture is real, y’all. Sexual violence has become a normalized and excused habit of our culture rooted in a larger patriarchal tradition that objectifies the female anatomy and subsequently robs them of agency over their bodies.
This is particularly true in cases where perpetrators are in positions of power. When victims are brave enough to come forward, they often find themselves quickly silenced and hyper-scrutinized. We witnessed this unfortunate reality recently in the trial of Oklahoma cop Daniel Holtzclaw where we didn’t know whether it was the alleged rapist who was facing charges or his thirteen traumatized victims.
There appeared to be a rush to judgment on the wrong end of the spectrum with the defense ignoring DNA evidence and instead bombarding us with details of the victims’ backgrounds as if any their “crimes” warranted the punishment of rape.
In the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, the victims’ voices were able to overpower the media circus and justice was served, at least for some, but only time will tell what justice will look like for Bill Cosby.
As they say, the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that there is one. Here are 5 cold hard facts that prove the unfortunate reality of rape culture.
- 600 people are raped every day in the United States (one every two minutes).
- Only 27% of people whose assaults met the legal definition of rape considered themselves victims.
- Less than 8% of reported rapes are false. Over 90% are true.
- Between 64% and 96% percent of all rapes are never reported to the authorities.
- 97% percent of perpetrators will never spend a day a jail.
Whatever the outcome, it is evident that rape culture is quietly becoming an endemic and controversial part of our society and it is imperative that the public promptly re-examines its attitudes about sexual assault.