Columnist: Stop laughing at Bill Cosby, rape culture

By: Kwynn Townsend-Riley – Columnist

This is no laughing matter.

It all started in 2004 when Andrea Constand, director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team met with Bill Cosby in his Pennsylvania home to discuss career advice. Allegedly, he gave her “herbal” pills to ease her anxiety, “touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated” her. Constand subsequently filed a civil complaint against Cosby, which was settled in November 2006. Thirteen women who allegedly had similar experiences as Constand are mentioned in court papers as Jane Doe witnesses. However, in 2006, Barbara Bowman came forward in a People Magazine article describing her assault by Cosby. In that same article, three Jane Does from Constand’s case were reported accepted cash from Cosby for years.

In 2014, more women came forward: Janice Dickinson, Helen Gumpel and Beverly Johnson, to name a few.

On July 6, 2015, after a request from the Associated Press, court documents from Constand’s 2006 lawsuit were released. Cosby confirmed that he had sex with one of the accusers after giving her Quaaludes, a powerful sedative. However, he avoided the question of whether or not he gave her the drugs without her knowledge. Cosby also admits to offering money to accusers for their compliance.

Bill Cosby has been publicly accused of raping, drugging, coercing or sexually assaulting nearly 36 women since 1965, and many of them have only started to come forward since late 2014.

I must admit, when the allegations began to surface, I was in a shock. Bill Cosby is such an influence to people everywhere. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember Cliff Huxtable, Fat Albert and “A Different World” are just his creations, not him. The most disturbing thing, though, is how people are reacting.

The reactions reveal the major signs of rape culture. When the perpetrator is assumed to be the reliable party, when they must confirm the victim was sexually assaulted before it can be believed, that is one such sign. People are still supporting Bill Cosby because “he is innocent until proven guilty.”

A second sign of rape culture is when many people question the validity of the survivor’s story. Significant psychological damage is attached to such an experience, and it could take decades for someone to acknowledge that sexual assault actually happened to them. Pain does not have an expiration date. Wounds take a long time to heal. There are only 36 women who had the courage to come forward… who knows how many women remain silent?

A third sign of rape culture is when people disparage victims by claiming they are seeking attention. Bill Cosby is a big celebrity, so a lot of people believe the victims are seeking their 15 minutes of fame. How can recounting an excruciating sexual violation be something a survivor would want to do? It is much more like 15 minutes of shame.

The trivializations of the rapes are disgusting. The memes, the tweets and the videos are ungodly. Bill Cosby dressed as Morpheus from “The Matrix” holding two pills, a red and blue one, is not cute. Rape is not funny. Rape is never funny.

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