A number of women have made allegations of sexual molestation against Bill Cosby. It has been easy to dismiss their claims because that lovable father Dr Huxtable aka Bill Cosby is one of the “three most believable…personalities in the world”.1 An article by Feminista Jones has reminded me of how easy it is to fall into defending Cosby at the expense of the women who may be victims of sexual abuse.
I do not believe that the allegations, which are decades old, are part of a conspiracy against Cosby, although some do. He also has support because he is a black man and black men are unfairly stereotyped as criminals. Also the history of America is littered with stories of black men being falsely accused of imagined transgressions against white women.
I had erred on Cosby’s side foremost because I was uncomfortable with his alleged modus operandi being made public. In particular, Janice Dickinson’s detailed account of her alleged sexual assault by Bill Cosby. In sharing the minutiae it unfortunately prejudices the validity of other allegations. I think an accuser could use the facts to embellish their story. This could make false allegations, however unlikely, a possibility.
Corroboration is evidence that supports the allegation. It is an extremely important element in cases of sexual abuse. Otherwise it is the man’s word against the woman’s word. In Cosby’s case the corroborative evidence may be tainted. Therein lies the problem. Why is it that women are not believed when they say they have been raped?
The answer is rooted in patriarchy and Christianity2
which encourage gender inequality. The idea of Eve the temptress remains and women are still not valued as highly as men. We are familiar with the death of black men involving the American police be it Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin. The same cannot be said for black women who have died in similar circumstances. Their cases are on the periphery. The presumption is that racial violence pivots around black men and boys and that is where the legal redress is being sought.
The legal system also reflects gender inequality. The NOPD3in America investigated only 179 of 1,290 sex crime cases. While one report found that 40% of college sexual assaults were not investigated. In England one third of rape cases are dropped and only a small percentage of cases result in a custodial sentence.4Ched Evans the footballer is such a case. He served half of his sentence for rape. Yet he still enjoys celebrity status while his victim has suffered abuse by his fans. She has had to move home at least three times.
This is patriarchy in action, men come first. It is so embedded that unwittingly, it is supported by women. This is why women can confidently affirm the innocence of Cosby in spite of the allegations made by at least 20 women.
It is not being suggested that Cosby is guilty or innocent. However, we should consider the burden we are placing on all women who have been abused when we proclaim with confidence a man is innocent. In reality we don’t know the facts. There should be a sense of indignation or at the very least one should consider the victims’ allegations and not dismiss them out right whoever the alleged perpetrator may happen to be.
- Anthony Tortorici, director of public relations at Coca-Cola, told Black Enterprise magazine in 1981 that the “three most believable personalities are God, Walter Cronkite, and Bill Cosby”. ↩
- Genesis 3:16 “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”. ↩
- The New Orleans Police Dept. ↩
- only 5.7% of reported rape cases end in a conviction ↩