It’s 8:36 pm and my baby girl is sound asleep in my arms. The faint light of the TV bounces gently off the wall, her face is peaceful and her breath is steady. She is safe. I do a lot of thinking in these moments. She’s getting so big so fast that our nighttime bed ritual of me rocking her to sleep is my futile attempt at keeping her a baby for as long as I can. The time will come when she will grow her own wings and soar as she is meant to; a time when my husband and I will no longer have her under our wings protecting her from the cruelties in the world and that thought terrifies me.
The other day as I was preparing dinner I asked my husband what he thought about the recent rape allegations that have resurfaced about Bill Cosby. His response was eerily similar to the responses I have heard come from other men.
“If these women were raped why are they talking about it now? Why did they wait so long to come forward?” he said.
“Is that really your response?”, I replied. “What if it was your daughter, who years after being raped or assaulted broke her silence and finally decided to talk about what happened to her, would you still have the same response? Does the length of time it takes a person to break their silence make their claims invalid?” He remained quiet.
I’ve never been raped or sexually assaulted, but I do know both men and women who have been. Of those women and men, none ever reported or even talked about the rape until many years later. Some were assaulted by family members and never talked about it because they were afraid of how it would affect certain family relationships. Others never talked about it because they were either embarrassed, ashamed, or both and thought that no one would believe them.
If these men and women felt this way about their attackers who were neither rich nor famous then it is reasonable to believe that the women allegedly raped by America’s most famous TV Dad, Bill Cosby, felt the same way. As a woman I get it, because after all, who would ever believe that iconic and much respected Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable or Mr. Jell-O pudding man could ever commit such crimes?
This is not the first time these allegations about Bill Cosby have surfaced. They’ve been circulating for years, but no one’s paid attention to them until now.
What most people who have not been raped fail to realize is that the act of rape, brings with it not only embarrassment and a broken spirit, but it also brings an immeasurable amount of shame. It’s not as easy to talk about as some make it seem and when you live in a society that turns a blind eye to sexual crimes against women it further pushes the abused into a state of silence.
When a victim finally gets the courage to talk and take back their power they get ostracized, viewed as disloyal, or called a liar. So even though most men don’t get it, I get it. I get why most women don’t tell. I get why some women decide to remain silent because the minute they do talk they are subjecting themselves to being violated all over again.
I don’t know if Bill Cosby is guilty of these allegations, but there are just way too many women and if I’ve learned anything in life it’s that people are capable of anything. If these allegations are indeed true, I can see why he continuously assaulted women. He knew he could. He knew they wouldn’t talk and if they did, he knew no one would believe them. He had been getting away with it for years.
*Writer’s note: One year after this essay was first published Bill Cosby was finally arrested and charged for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand.*