Friday, November 21, 2014

Bill Cosby and Rape

Bill Cosby (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
Here we go again.  Another celebrity has been accused of rape.  This time, the allegations are not new but more women have come forward with their stories.  They accuse Bill Cosby of drugging them and raping them.  It's hard to ignore the allegations when there are so many women coming forward, and why would anyone want to ignore a rape allegation even from one woman or man?

As today progressed, I continued to hear the same stuff about this story.  Cosby maintains his silence on the allegations.  Media outlets continue to analyze what they cannot know, i.e. what Cosby is thinking or what the women are thinking.  There is this feeling that no one wants to touch this hot potato, even though it would be wrong not to.

Rape is a crime.  It has nothing to do with sex or love.  Rape is about power, control, and violence.  The rapist dominates his or her victim in some way, often with a weapon.  There is nothing all right about rape.  Women do not fantasize about being raped.  Rape is destructive, humiliating, and soul-wounding.  It is psychologically traumatizing.

Actually, I did find an article at TheAtlantic.com that comes at this story from a very different place.  "The Cosby Show" by Ta-Nehisi Coates begins with this statement: "Declining to seriously reckon with the rape allegations against him is reckless. And I was once reckless." Coates proceeds to lay out his experience with Cosby and his own sense of guilt for not confronting the allegations of rape against Cosby in the past.  Wow. That is the sound of a human conscience speaking.

So, I'd like to know about Bill Cosby's conscience.  As Coates describes in his article, if we don't know Cosby as a father figure from TV, then we know him for his morality crusades.  How can he crusade for morality if he's a rapist?  Does he even see his past actions as rape and wrong? Or as something he's entitled to do as a celebrity with power?

Coates makes the point that none of the women stands to benefit from making the rape allegation.  No one has filed a civil lawsuit, and there are no criminal charges. In fact, they stand to lose far more than Cosby in this situation.  It's really hard, really hard, for women to come forward after being raped in our society.  There is still the fear that they will not be believed, that they will be ostracized in some way.  But the fact of the matter is, no rapist can be brought to justice unless his victim reports the rape to the police as soon as possible after the crime.  Now most police departments have a special unit for sex crimes.  When most of Cosby's alleged victims were in the immediate aftermath of their rapes, the police would not have been the most sympathetic and professional people to report to.

American society has a long way to go still despite the progress made regarding violence against women.  Men who don't realize this, or don't believe this, are not paying attention.  Coates in now paying attention.  Unlike Woody Allen who lashed out publicly when he was accused of sexually abusing a young girl, Cosby has chosen silence.  This may be a smart PR move, but it's not a smart human move. Cosby is clearly not paying attention either.

I hope that Cosby sees Coates' article online and especially the last paragraph:
I don't have many writing regrets. But this is one of them. I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough. I take it as a personal admonition to always go there, to never flinch, to never look away.

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