What Bill Cosby Shows Us About Our Victim Blaming Culture

What Bill Cosby Shows Us About Our Victim Blaming Culture

Why didn't we believe 42 women?
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In 2004, Andrea Constand was raped by Bill Cosby. A year later, Constand decided to sue Cosby in civil court. By the time the case settled, 13 other women came forward with reports that Cosby sexually assaulted them. Now, over 40 women have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, but it took a confession from Cosby for our society to believe the victims.

That is truly terrifying. Why were these women not believed when they first came forward with these allegations?

Constand reported the incident to the police in 2005, but the District Attorney decided not to press charges because of a lack of physical evidence. Another victim said she went to a lawyer with her assault, and he claimed that she was fabricating the story. Sadly, this trend is the norm for the other women who have come forward with accusations against Cosby.

Women had been accusing Cosby of rape for over a decade, and while some people achieved minor media attention with their stories, the public didn’t seem to care. No one cared about the 2005 charges until a male comedian called Cosby a rapist in a video that went viral. Only then were the charges taken seriously by the public. When asked about what he said, the comedian said he was just using information easily accessible on the internet. He said anyone could have gotten information on the charges from a simple Google search.

I understand that part of the initial lack of public reaction is because Cosby’s role on The Cosby Show. No one wanted to think that the man who played “America’s dad” was actually a serial rapist who drugged young girls (some as young as 15). However, when so many women come forward with similar stories, there needs to be serious doubt about Cosby’s innocence. Furthermore, now that court documents have been released where he admits to his crimes, there should be no doubts about his guilt.

But the fact that there is still doubt shows us some important trends in our culture.

Firstly, our society doesn’t believe victims. Over 40 women have come forward, all with similar stories involving drugs. However, people are still defending Bill Cosby. This week, court documents were released from the 2005 lawsuit against Cosby, in which he admits to drugging and raping Constand, and paying other accusers to keep quiet about his attacks.

And yet, all over my Facebook wall, people are claiming he is innocent until proven guilty. And while this would be true (had he not admitted his actions under oath), this phrase is never used when people are charged with other crimes. The norm is to assume that if a person is arrested, they are probably guilty.

So why is the opposite true for accused rapists?

Even in cases where there is hard evidence of an attack, such as a video tape or hospital visit, juries are skeptical to believe victims. One specific example is a case in 1989, where a jury acquitted a Florida man accused of rape, despite video evidence. The jury foreman said that because the woman was wearing a miniskirt: "We all felt she was asking for it."

Thankfully, this caused public outrage, which led to new legislation regarding what information defense attorneys can use to defend an accused rapist (for example, what the victim was wearing). However, in other states, juries can still be asked to consider whether a victim was "asking for it" by drinking, wearing certain clothes, or voluntarily entering an apartment.

This leads to my second point: Our society blames victims for their attacks. When asked why she waited so long to report the incident, one victim said, “It never works out [for the victim], unless you’re bleeding and there’s DNA and an eyewitness. I was 19 and he was the king of the world... Nobody would've believed me."

The sad thing is, she’s right. Our culture has a way of putting the blame on victims.

Like with Constand, sometimes the police choose not to press charges because of lack of evidence. It can take months or even years for a survivor to be able to talk about what was done to them. By this time, most physical evidence of an attack is gone.

Or, like most of Cosby’s victims, it is assumed that the victim is lying or did something wrong. The probing questions that survivors are asked, from “What were you wearing?” to “How much did you have to drink?” show that our culture is skeptical towards victims.

We shouldn’t do this to victims of sexual assault. Police should take every report seriously, no matter how long ago it happened or who is accused. In the public sphere, we should stop our victim blaming. It doesn’t matter what they were wearing. It doesn’t matter how much they had to drink. It doesn’t matter if they’ve had consensual sex with their rapist before. Victims are never to blame for their attack, period. It’s important for us as a society to learn from the Cosby case, so we can better help sexual assault victims and punish attackers.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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When Words Are Not Enough

Sometimes you just need to be.

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Life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs. We all desire easy fruitful lives where no one ever dies and no one ever leaves. Instead, we suffer through hardships and great trials that test our faith. These conflicts often leave us worn down and feeling helpless. This is the time when words become a languid breeze, going through one ear and out the other. This is what you should do when words are not enough to satiate the pain you hold in trembling hands.

Focus all your energy into just being. No one expects you to get over the tragedy that occurred in your life, so don't force yourself. Just eat, breathe, and sleep until you feel up to doing normal tasks. Whatever circumstance that has stolen your breath and turned your life upside down won't go a week in a couple of days or a week. Wounds like yours don't go away instantly; instead, they take time and nurturing. Sometimes it's best to keep a sore covered but in some circumstances, know that seeing someone is okay.

These tragedies you face are real, and they try to break down the very substances that make you who you are. Counselors and therapists can help you make sense of the burden you carry. There are many reasons why you might be hesitant to see a therapist, but if the burden you carry becomes too much, a therapist can help you lighten that load.

Know that what you are going through is real and it is tough, but you will make it out on top. You are a survivor and a success story. Every single bad thing that has tried to tear you down hasn't succeeded, and this will be no different. Trust me, your story is not over.

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