Why The Bill Cosby Scandal Is Proof of What Many of Us Already Know…That Way Too Many People Still Do Not Take Sexual Assault Seriously

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As a 36-year-old man, the first time I remember seeing Bill Cosby was on Fat Albert. As a kid who was a few years past toddler when I began to watch, I didn’t know Cosby as many of those older than me did. Many remembered him from his shows and standup routines from the 60s and 70s, but that was all I had. To me, Bill Cosby was just the “dude on Fat Albert.” Then came The Cosby Show in 1984, which needs no introduction. He obviously became a much bigger person to me at that point.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. Lovable. Charming. Intelligent. Embracing. The epitome of what a father, husband and man is supposed to be. An excellent example for the black community.

Now let’s make something clear: Bill Cosby is NOT Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. Heathcliff Huxtable is a CHARACTER Bill Cosby portrayed. He is an actor. This is what he does.

First off, there’s nothing wrong with becoming attached to a particular character that an actor portrays. It means they’ve done their job and a very good one at that. Over the years, many characters on shows and movies have come and gone. The ones we remember are the ones who will obviously hold special places in our hearts, many times, due to the character they played more so than who they are as people, because we see the characters they play more often than we see them.

I am a very big fan of Connie Britton. I’ve only known of her since the beginning of ABC’s Nashville in 2012, even though she has been on television and movies many times. On Nashville, she plays country music star “Rayna Jaymes.” Just for an example of how easily we become attached to certain characters, Connie speaks with a slight country accent on the show. However, the first time I watched an interview with her, I was surprised that she didn’t sound like she did on the show. She doesn’t even use a heavy accent on Nashville, but apparently, enough of one. At that point, I realized how attached I was to “Rayna.” Whenever I see her on anything other than Nashville, I expect the accent. She has an amazing normal voice; don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I’m still surprised from time to time. I catch myself saying, “Oh wait…this isn’t Rayna talking.”

Anyway, it’s not much of a secret as to why Mr. Cosby is in the news right now. He’s been accused by multiple women for sexual assault. It was recently reported that Bill Cosby testified in 2005 that he did indeed acquire Qualludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with. Many of these incidents happened nearly 30 years as reported by some of these women.

Right now, the biggest question that comes up is, “WHY DID THESE WOMEN WAIT SO LONG???”

The fact that that is even a question shows what many of us already know…that way too many people still do not take sexual assault seriously.

No, this isn’t a woman talking…this is a MAN.

Sexual assault is already a problem to begin with. I’m not looking up any statistics right now, but I really don’t need to in order to prove my point here. The attitude about it, to me, is absolutely disgusting.

Before any of you reading say, “Yes! Men are so disgusting about sexual assault,” I hate to break this to you, but it is NOT only men who have disgusting attitudes. It’s women as well.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying…there are a LOT of disgusting men out there who are still stuck in the old days as far as their attitudes toward women. Saying “Well it’s 2015” means nothing. Some of things that were said back then are still being said today. Not last year, last month, or last week. TODAY.

However, there are quite a few women out there with those attitudes as well. I’m not at all saying that it’s acceptable in one case and not the other, but I would think with sexual assault happening more often to women, the attitudes wouldn’t exist nearly as much with them, but I’m sadly very wrong about that.

Victim-blaming happens so often and it’s just horrible that so many people have been programmed to do this in other cases, but in terms of sexual assault, an already very sensitive topic, it’s just baffling to me as to how often both men AND women put more blame and responsibility on the victims than the suspect.

The main reason I feel victim blaming is just despicable, especially when it comes to rape or any other sexual assault, is the simple fact that it takes all or most of the responsibility from the person who committed the crime. While anyone can be a victim, just for the sake of this blog post, I’ll focus on the victims involved in this case, who were all women.

It’s one thing to warn women about the potential dangers associated with sexual assault and the events that could lead to it. I don’t have an issue with that. However, there is a fine line between that and saying that a victim was “wrong” in some way when the sexual assault happens to them. Many times when this is said, there is very little said about the suspect. It’s as if people are saying, “Yeah, he raped her, but ya know…maybe she shouldn’t have dressed the way she did” or “played hard to get” or any of the other statements usually made when this happens.

Again, so many people are programmed to think this way. When a rape happens, the first thing many think is, “What was she wearing?” or “Was she out by herself?” or “How much did she have to drink?” or anything else. Anything else to put it on her…and this is for those who actually believe it happened. Many do not. Then, very little is said about the perpetrator. 

But back to the question of “why the women didn’t come forward sooner.” Men are wrong to say this, yes, but again…I’m baffled that so many women asked the question. So as an intelligent man who really isn’t the smartest man in the world, here are a few of my responses:

Embarrassment. To be violated in that way has to be utterly embarrassing and thanks to society’s view about sexual assaults, I can imagine that feeling is a whole lot worse if it ever got out that it happened. Since it’s so often viewed as the “victim’s fault,” of course, many aren’t going to come forward. We can’t even have discussions without people admitting to being wrong, and that is just talking. So with something like rape, of course it won’t happen.

So why now? Simple. As time goes on, perhaps women feel a little more comfortable speaking up about it. Not to mention, it’s a lot easier when someone else has the bravery to do it first. I don’t blame women for this at all. I’ve never been there, so I can’t even begin to fathom how they would feel in this case.

Timing. This is the one I’m really surprised people don’t understand, especially the ones throwing out the question of why the women didn’t come forward sooner.  People barely believe these women now, but let’s think about this…at the height of The Cosby Show, back when it was the ONLY thing happening on Thursday nights, these women come forward and do you believe them then? I seriously doubt it, and I mean seriously. I can already hear the complaints: “They’re just trying to take him down,” or “They’re mad about something,” or that they’re lying, or of course, the classic, “They don’t want to see a successful black man.” (We all knew that one was coming.)

Surely those won’t be the only reasons and I’m sure many of us could come up with more. But if the success is pretty much gone and people don’t believe these women, why would it be more believable when someone is at the height of their success? To ruin his “legacy”?

I’m sorry, but if he did those things, and it very much looks like he did, I don’t think the women are to blame for his legacy being “ruined.”

They may be ashamed. When someone does something wrong to us, often we think it is our faults. Any or all of these women may have felt that if Mr. Cosby is doing these things to them to make them feel these ways, then it must have been something wrong that they did. Again, we go back to society’s view of sexual assault…that it is so often the victim’s fault. Being ashamed already because of it happening is one thing, but society’s view doesn’t help.

They were getting paid to keep quiet. Now I mean this with sympathy and respect. Also, with a little common sense. The funniest thing I’ve heard in relation to this one is women saying, “I don’t care what anybody pays me…I’m talking! I’m not about to wait thirty years to say something!

First off, just stop. I know people who can’t even borrow twenty dollars and give it back as they promise to do. And we’re talking Bill Cosby. If money was given out, how much would one imagine HE of all people is paying to keep someone quiet? I’m thinking five figures at the very least, and I’m talking on a periodic basis.

I get that money doesn’t run everyone’s life, but let’s not be foolish to believe that many of the ones claiming that money wouldn’t shut them up would actually do so. I see some of my friends say this and I just fall out of my chair laughing at them. I’m almost tempted to ask them for the money they owe me, you know, the couple of dollars I loaned them, but I figure…nah.

Because of who he is and his image. He did the commercials for Jell-O. He was Cliff Huxtable. He had the standup routines based around family and kids. He was a motivational speaker. He made cartoons. So for him to rape someone?! How DARE you say such a thing! Not Bill Cosby! Never!

This is the mindset I’ve noticed that so many people have. Is there any wonder women didn’t come forward sooner? Who would believe that he was capable of this?

We see this every day and sadly, many have experienced this right at home or elsewhere in their families. Someone is sexually assaulted, they tell someone and right away, they aren’t believed. And these people aren’t celebrities. So let’s take a celebrity, one who many people know and love, and say that he raped someone. Now there are more people berating you and not believing than just those few family members.

Let me quickly talk about members of the black community and one thing many of us have been brought up to do: Run from the police when we’ve done nothing wrong. Yes, many of us are taught that if we see the police, run, because they’re going to harass us if we don’t. Why not just stay there and be honest? “Because they won’t believe us.” I’ve many times asked why we should run from the police when we’re innocent and some folks look at me like I had a third eye growing out of my forehead. So this notion of “not believing” someone based on anything other than the truth is not a brand new thing.

I could list many more reasons, but it’s just sad to me that “Why they didn’t come forward sooner” is even a question. How can I, as a man this has never happened to, understand this, but so many others cannot? It’s really not rocket science. My first thoughts didn’t go to, “Why didn’t they come forward?” but to wonder if this really happened. Not as in believing that it didn’t, but to simply say that I didn’t know…which is what we all should have been saying.

Of course, the court of popular opinion seems to rule these days. People aren’t interested in facts or that whole “innocent until proven guilty” nonsense. Nah. To save time from, I don’t know…THINKING, people just choose what “sounds” right to them. What “looks” better. What “likely” happened. Even when it’s clear that investigations haven’t commenced or concluded, no matter. The public, from the comforts of their homes and Facebook pages, already have the answers. These are the answers that highly-trained, professional investigators and agents haven’t even discovered yet. Hey guys and gals in the FBI…have you thought about just consulting with those on Facebook to help out with your investigations, since they seem to know so much?

To make matters worse, the reasons are just horrible. How someone looks determines if they’re guilty or not. What their race is. Who they are. How bad the picture looks that whatever news outlet decides to show. Whether they “look” like the type who would commit the crime. How long ago it happened. These are the things people use to determine innocence or guilt.

I feel absolutely terrible for the victims of rape and any other form of sexual assault. I feel for them so much. It’s bad enough that they had to go through the ordeal to begin with, but everything that comes after it. Having to live with it for who knows how long. People putting you down for it. Being blamed. Being labeled. Not being believed. And the list goes on.

I’m not going to pretend to know all the right things to say to rape victims who are caught up in this manner. Hoping it doesn’t happen isn’t enough. I can only say that I really do sincerely hope that you keep coming forward. I know it can be incredibly tough. Call me crazy, but even if it may not bring the results desired, I honestly feel that bringing it to the forefront is putting a little something on it that would not otherwise be there.

In other words, even if no one believed Bill Cosby was capable of this, the fact that this is out now has hopefully reached people and let them know that hey…you’re not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. You were not wrong for this to happen. Anyone can do this to you. It is NOT your fault. Let someone know because SOMEONE WILL believe you.

It is unknown as to what will happen to Bill Cosby, if anything. But hopefully, if and when all the evidence comes out, the appropriate action is taken. That is my stance.

As for society’s attitude about rape and other sexual assaults, I’m not going to end this by saying that it “needs to happen to you or a family member so you’ll understand,” because I don’t want it to happen to you or someone you love in order to understand. I wouldn’t wish sexual assault on my worst enemy. I just ask that you take a second, stop assuming this and that, and really understand what’s going on.

Don’t question why victims spoke up when they did. Be happy that they spoke up. Don’t question what the victims wore. Question why the perpetrator felt the need to rape them. Don’t question why women go out by themselves. Ask why a woman can’t feel safe being somewhere by herself. Don’t tell a woman at the bar or club to “watch her drink.” Tell the men not to put the damn stuff in their drinks to begin with.

And so on, and freaking so on.

As a last resort, imagine yourself in that position. Society has such a hard time with empathy because many of us don’t even take the time to put ourselves in the shoes of others, but take some time and put yourself there. I mean really put yourself in the shoes of any of these women. Stop responding as if a few snaps of the fingers would have fixed things. It really isn’t that simple. If you think it is, ask a woman who has been sexually assaulted. Of course, we all have the answers when it isn’t happening to us. It’s sad that I’ve heard so many women just dictate what will happen if someone tries to sexually assault them. Contrary to popular belief, men are not bumbling idiots. They’re not coming after you in such a way that will be predictable enough for you to be able to handle it as you wish.

NO woman out there plans on being raped, and surely, it has gone through their minds how they are to handle it. However, I can imagine that sadly, it hasn’t gone the way they anticipated.

As a society, we have to do better. Period. Let’s stop focusing on beating down the victims, questioning their every move and start beating up the perpetrator and questioning theirs. 

Let’s start doing this before it happens to you or someone you love.

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