“We’re coming at you with music and fun…
And if you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done…
So let’s get ready, okay?
Hey, Hey Hey!”
That is how Bill Cosby sent us into episodes of “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” one of the traditions of my childhood. I used to watch that show every Saturday morning and laugh at the antics of Fat Albert, Weird Harold, Russell, and Mush Mouth.
I did listen to the music and had a lot of fun.
But thanks to the myriad of sexual assault allegations that have been leveled at Cosby by an ever-growing group of women, some of which go back to when I was a kid, I am learning something about what happens when fame and sexual assault intersect.
And a lot of it is stuff that I wish I could unlearn.
Lessons from the Bill Cosby flap
One, I’ve learned that I know some folks with some really vivid imaginations.
The main thing I’ve learned from the reactions to the allegations leveled against Bill Cosby is that sexual assault has a special place when it comes to our jurisprudence … It’s the only crime that I can think of off of the top of my head in which it is assumed that the victim is lying.
For example, I have friends who believe that Bill Cosby is the target of a conspiracy to bring down “a good black man” either because he made some nebulous white person angry or because he wants to put out television programming designed to put an end to the homosexual agenda.
Or, as another friend told me, all of this “old stuff” is coming up on Bill Cosby now because liberals are angry at him for mounting what I like to call his “Black kids need to pull up their pants” tour…
(Wish I were kidding…)
But the main thing I’ve learned from the reactions to the allegations leveled against Bill Cosby is that sexual assault has a special place when it comes to our jurisprudence, at least from the point of view of a lot of the comedian’s partisans.
It’s the only crime that I can think of off of the top of my head in which it is assumed that the victim is lying. Because the only woman in the Cosby mess that went to the police, Andrea Constand, ended up getting her justice not through the criminal courts, but the civil ones, I’ve seen the question “Why didn’t any of these women file a police report?” more than once.
That I kept getting that question shows me that a great many people have absolutely no clue of the trauma that an individual faces when sexually assaulted. They think that if you don’t go to the police or don’t file charges, it didn’t happen. You’re making it up. You had sex with this person, it didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, so you made the charge to get back at them.
It’s usually then that I decide that I need to spend a few minutes away from social media to keep from cursing out people I actually respect otherwise, people who know just how personal this is for me.
Why the Bill Cosby story is personal
You see, this whole Cosby thing hits kind of close to home for me because I’m a survivor of sexual assault. It was a man I had been seeing and what I thought was going to be a nice evening of watching television and hanging out turned into something that’s taken me a long time to make peace with.
Many people have absolutely no clue of the trauma that an individual faces when sexually assaulted. They think that if you don’t go to the police … it didn’t happen. You’re making it up. You had sex with this person, it didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, so you made the charge to get back at them.
It happened on June 14, 1994. I can tell you the exact time, the place, how everything smelled…and how crappy and degrading it feels to be forced to do something that you associated with desire until that time.
Probably the worst part of the whole thing was his asking me if I enjoyed it.
I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Because Pennsylvania law in 1994 was such that you had to be beaten within an inch of your life to get an acquaintance rape charge even listened to, I left town rather than put myself through a trial in which my parents had to sit and listen to my limited sexual history being put through a prism that made it sound like I had screwed half of Philadelphia.
Besides, when it comes to sexual assault and the law, justice is not guaranteed.
The stats tell the story
According to the Department of Justice, only 40 out of every 100 rapes are actually reported to the police.
Out of that 40, only 10 lead to an actual arrest;
Of that 10, only eight go to trial;
Of that eight, only four lead to a felony conviction;
And of that four, only three of the rapists convicted will go to jail.
And that’s without having a rich, powerful man with a flotilla of lawyers hired to flay you like a dead rabbit for having dared try and get justice at the defense table.
Now I realize that there are some sociopaths out there that might use a rape charge to bring someone down. I get it. Especially when they seem to be coming up every five minutes.
But as someone who has been through that trauma, I’d appreciate as much of the benefit of the doubt for victims as everyone seems to be willing to give Bill Cosby, okay?
Hey, Hey, Hey…
Denise Clay is a veteran journalist and a member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists.