It finally happened. After months of accusations from over 50 women with horrific tales of sexual assault, Bill Cosby's luck has run out. On December 30th, 2015, Cosby stood before a judge, faced charges of indecent assault, and paid more money in bail than most people see in their lifetimes. If convicted, Cosby could face a mere $25,000 fine and ten years in prison.
These are charges from only ONE of the women, Andrea Constand, who says she became friends with Cosby when she worked at Temple University. If other charges go through as the DA hopes, we may not be hearing from the 78-year-old Cosby, well, ever again.
Since this whole thing with the real Heathcliff Huxtable went down, I had questions. I'll admit, at the beginning, I questioned the legitimacy of the claims. Bill Cosby was our favourite neighbour, the kindly uncle-type who sat you on his knee as a child and played Santa Claus at Christmas. No one wants to believe that their cool, funny television buddy is an alleged rapist. But the accusations kept piling on and my doubts came to a grinding, gut-shearing halt.
The conversation has changed now. There is evidence to support the claims and the court is readying itself for trial. My questions have changed as well; I no longer doubt a single accusation that any of the women have made. And as a matter of fact, neither should you.
There are three questions that I want to ask of America's once beloved father figure. In light of everything that's happened, I think that we should all consider them:
1. Why Did He Do It?
The question can no longer be phrased without the "why." Part of the reason why Constand's allegations went to court is because Cosby made a very bizarre mistake -- he admitted to giving Constand quaaludes, but he alleges that she took them willingly. That's like saying that the guy you punched in the mouth was totally fine with it because you were re-enacting Fight Club, and that the first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club. No one is going to take pills from a person who they have repeatedly rejected sexual advances from without assuming that those pills are something other than quaaludes. Constand alleges that Cosby originally told her that he was giving her something "herbal."
Furthermore, why is it that Cosby felt a need to drug women in the first place? It's no secret that there are hundreds of thousands of women who are chomping at the bit to have sex with a celebrity, so surely there are women out there who would follow Cosby to his hotel room for a night of consensual sex. Unless the consensual aspect of carnality doesn't turn Cosby's crank?
2. Why Are We So Disgusted By This?
I'd like to preface this by saying that we should OF COURSE be disgusted by the allegations against Bill Cosby. Some of the stories made me want to take several showers. But why is it that we are so disgusted by Cosby specifically?
A sweater-wearing, lovable dad is, in the public's eye, not supposed to be capable of sexually violating anyone.
Look up R. Kelly for a moment. The recording artist and former basketball player had so many allegations against him over the years that he makes Cosby look like a novice in the courtroom. The vast majority of the charges involved minors, including the singer Aaliyah, who was 15 when they were illegally married. But no one was out for blood with R. Kelly, and we sure as hell don't talk about his statutory rape as he pursues his relatively forgettable career in peace. Why is that? Do we expect that kind of behaviour from an ex-basketball player turned singer and producer?
A sweater-wearing, lovable dad is, in the public's eye, not supposed to be capable of sexually violating anyone. Our disgust comes from the feeling that we are no longer safe. In a way, we feel like Cosby betrayed us too.
3. Why Are We Just Starting To Clue In?
If you hear a story once, you drown it out. If you hear it three times, you listen. Doesn't it make sense that if you hear the same story 50 times, you would start paying attention? Did it really take one woman in the courtroom with a DA behind her to make the whole world say, "Wait a minute, maybe something is happening here"? It's all real now. The support in Cosby's corner is a lot quieter now, and all it took were people in authority, the lawyers and a judge, to say that we should listen up. People without voices, like the 50 women who made the allegations, were not enough reality to make this issue real.
Why are we still playing dumb? I like to believe that the majority of society wants what's best for its fellow citizens. It shouldn't take a person with celebrity status or a fancy law degree to convince the world that, hey, maybe we should give someone who claims to have been raped a chance to tell their story. And it shouldn't take over 50 people to ask the right questions.
Yes, it's true that cases like this often come down to a he said/she said bottom line. Even still, that doesn't make any allegations more or less true. The justice system needs to make sure that they are doing their job. In turn, the public must do their job, which should be one of two things: offering their support to the victims, or minding their own business. We don't get to call anyone a liar if they claim to be raped, and we don't need to disregard them either. Of course there's the chance that the story could be made up, but look at it this way: do you really want to be the person to add to another human being's trauma? I hope that you don't.
I don't think that I will have all of my questions answered. In the end, I'm fine with that. Even if the answers did come, it wouldn't necessarily change anything about how we deal with Bill Cosby. But this keeps the conversation going. It keeps our compassion sharp and forces us to be aware of the real issues. For now, that's all we can ask for.
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