I Don’t Believe You, I Do

OpEdSince the beginning of the Bill Cosby fiasco, I have remained silent; I have chosen not to speak. I did this for a reason, not because I had nothing to say or because I believed one side or the other; no that wasn’t it. It also wasn’t out of respect for Bill Cosby or the women who were coming forward, this wasn’t in my mind, as I watched all the media, social and regular rip both sides of this story to shreds.

Everyone taking sides, everyone with an opinion, everyone prepared to judge, everyone no matter their knowledge or qualifications prepared to render a decision.

I watched and I listened. I read the comments on the various stories. Some of the comments caused my heart to shrivel, others made me want to jump into cyberspace and hunt down the anonymous person without a soul who felt a need to spew their bile. Mostly though, I watched and I listened; to friends, family and complete strangers as they dissected the story of Bill Cosby the public persona and Bill Cosby the man and his legacy. On the other hand and from the other side of the debate I watched friends, family and strangers discount, disregard and disparage the twenty-four women who have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby, not Cliff Huxtable but Bill Cosby the man of drugging, assaulting and raping them.

hero to zero

I do not know the truth. The only ones in this entire tragedy who know 100% of the truth are Bill Cosby and the twenty-four women who have accused him of horrific acts of violation.

As I listened and I read, I struggled with my feelings. When Phylicia Rashād said, ‘forget those women’, I became enraged, I could only think to myself, ‘how could any woman say this about victims of sexual assault?’ Is it possible for anyone to be this free of empathy, this lacking in compassion?

Forget those women.

Then my friend and hero, Deborah at The Monster in Your Closet wrote this, encapsulating so much of what I wanted to say but didn’t have the words.

Victims of sexual assault do not report, all too often we do not report. There are many reasons for this, but the sad truth is the number one reason is how a victim of sexual assault is treated by the system that is supposed to protect them. Every single person, with rare exception, from first responders, to hospital personnel, police, DA’s and yes sadly, family members and loved ones tend to blame the victim, fall into the trap of wondering what the victim did to create, invite or otherwise cause herself to be raped.

I do not believe you.

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When society plays the blame game, protecting the rapist no matter what the reason; high school football star, politician or beloved television star every excuse is trotted out for why they could not have possibly done what they are accused of doing. The ultimate result of this cover-up is, their bad acts were caused by the victim, it was the fault of the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothing, accepting a drink from them and tempting them to bad behavior. We don’t report because we already know the outcome, there are names for women (girls) like us and none of them are kind.

I could not understand, truly my heart and mind simply stuttered. How can any of us sit back and cast aspersions on victims brave enough to step forward into the light of day, allow their names and faces to be seen knowing what they would they would face; Golddigger was the kindest appellation I heard applied.

Then as if reading my heart and mind, again Deborah at Monster in Your Closet wrote another stunning analysis, this time her words brought me to my knees.

I believe you.

What all of us, every victim of sexual assault needs to hear.

I believe you. I trust you. I love you. I will protect you.

That is what most of us never hear. Never, not from our parents, not from our friends or loved ones, not from first responders or doctors, not from the police or DA’s; we just want to be heard and believed, protected.

Why don’t we report? Can you imagine having to tell the story of your sexual assault to one stranger? How about ten strangers? How about a room full of strangers? How about a room full of strangers who don’t believe you, who don’t want to believe while your rapist sits staring at you with a smirk on his face knowing he will be free soon while your heart and soul is being destroyed, your reputation shredded.

Why does our story change? We don’t remember. It is nearly impossible for us to remember ever detail in what for most of us was the most traumatic event in our lives. We don’t want to remember, for most of us we spend a lifetime trying to forget.

Effects of Rape

Am I taking sides? No, but I have a tendency to believe the victim especially where there are twenty-four. What people fail to realize, Bill Cosby isn’t going to be arrested and thrown in jail most of these accusations are over a decade old. Might there be some Civil Suits, sure but even they may get thrown out or settled so we never hear about them. In the meantime, Bill Cosby is still doing his stand-up act and making jokes to women about not drinking around him. He doesn’t appear to care to much about the gravity of the situation or his legacy, why should we?

Comments

  1. I am really torn on this one, okay don’t get me wrong I am not saying it didn’t happen, here in the UK we have had numerous cases where icons have turned out to be child molesters and abusers and the women stayed silent for years, the only aspect of this case I do struggle with a little is the why now bit, let me explain what I mean. The children in the cases here were silenced as were others who knew the truth because of the power held by those who did the abuse. The thing is if I understand these complaints fully they date back to a time before Bill Cosby was the institution he became, in fact some date back to a time where a black man accused of raping a white woman would pretty much be guaranteed a guilty verdict, so why wait? It may very well be that until you are in that situation you cannot answer that question but I cannot imagine sitting back and allowing other women to suffer because I chose silence, I appreciate over here in the UK this is not a case that has really got much coverage so I may be missing lots of facts, maybe the why now question has been answered the problem how do you prove or disprove anything that happened so long ago, here is the UK the abusers confessed as those who covered for them started to hold their hands up and admit their own complicity

    • Paula, the problems of Bill Cosby were well known within his community. The women who were harmed were vulnerable and young. Cosby was already in a power position, black or white he already had the upper hand.

      Everything you have said here, it is exactly why they didn’t come forward. They would be challenged and treated poorly. They didn’t come forward because they wouldn’t be believed. They didn’t come forward because they would be discredited.

      They didn’t come forward this time either. It took a male comedian to start this one. Not one of the victims, but a man.

      • I did start by stating I was in no way saying that it had not happened and that here in the UK we have not had much coverage only bits and pieces mainly in social media but If it turns out to be anything like we have experienced in the UK you are in for a lot of shocks then because there is only one reason why if what he was doing was an open secret and nothing done and that is that a lot of others were doing exactly the same. If people are not shocked and outraged by a behaviour it is because they consider it normal I have had many memories from my childhood tarnished by what we have discovered and even worse the people I was looking up to were systematically abusing children, like the Bill Cosby story has barely been covered here I am not sure how much Operation Yewtree has been covered over there but if you look it up I am pretty sure you will find similarities

        • Sorry, I was typing fast Paula, I meant only to show how these types of behaviors get covered up and how victims can and all to often do decide not to come forward, the why of it.

          Bill Cosby is a perfect example. You in the UK have had other perfect examples, I have read about a couple of them.

  2. Hi Val,
    I really liked this blog post! As I have experienced Domestic Violence in the past and the statistics are alike. I am not judge and jury, I leave this matter to the courts instead of assuming anything.
    Lots of love, Emily
    BTW, love your blog. I am your fan!

  3. There was a protest here a few days ago — the local theatre here didn’t cancel his show as other venues have done.

    Let me say first: I would side with the women. The accusations are not new, there have been accusations for years — what’s new is that this time the media is giving it some attention. I think what is sad is that it always comes down to the woman — a man is almost universally, unquestionably innocent of doing such things, while the woman is always guilty — she ‘asked’ for it, she dressed provocatively, she is making it up for ‘revenge.’ Women have to ‘prove it happened’, while having their character ripped to shreds, while the man can just sit back, say ‘no, I didn’t do it.’ and his character gets the sympathy. The victim is a victim twice — once of the attack, and once by the justice system (a third time, if the case catches media attention, and the woman is publicly attacked). It’s no wonder the crime is under-reported.

    What is interesting (if such a story can have interesting points) is how this contrasts with the issues of race that have arisen with Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Treyvon … in the case of poor, non-celebrity black men, their guilt is assumed, unquestioned. Yet, for a celebrity, a rich black man — Cosby, assorted athletes, OJ — their celebrity seems to earn them the “innocent” label. Which of course adds to the “see, their is no racism” discussion, because we can point to the black athletes and celebrities and say “see … they were accused, and we didn’t automatically assume their guilt. We defended them!” Fame and fortune seem to win every time.

    • Yes, there is some of that though I think in this case there are those landing on both side of the discussion. This one is a terrible and tragic story for all involved.

      The strange part of the story, for me anyway. Though much of his behavior was known inside of Hollywood, it wasn’t really talked about outside of Hollywood. The women certainly didn’t come forward until a male comedian made it part of his routine. It took a man to really call it out. Isn’t that strange?

  4. Nice post here Val, Really sad how people get taken advantage of and can’t really do anything about it. Not because they can’t, but because no one believes them.However, one comment caught my attention. (the one about Paris and Nigerian situation). I am Nigerian and I don’t think we are ready to solve our own problems yet. We are too busy hashtagging #jesuischarlie on all social media while bokoharam massacre about 2000 of our countrymen and we can’t even create a hashtag, talk of a 1000 man march. Just a post related to that. A letter to all African leaders. Check it out please. Thanks http://kaysfittings0211.blogspot.com/2015/01/this-letter-is-to-all-african-leaders.html

    • Thank you for the link Keren, I will check it out. I am preparing a post and the disparity in our reporting today. I find the lack of coverage of the tragedy in your country disturbing, to say the least. If we are to mourn Paris we should equally mourn the loss of life in Nigeria.

    • I tried to leave you a comment, hopefully it came through.

  5. Thank you for posting this story. There is more truth in your words than people are willing to believe. Things have improved since I was young. Back then you didn’t dare speak up because of all the reasons you’ve stated. NO ONE would believe or support you. Now, some do listen, some do believe you, but there is still all the stigma associated with the crime. It is a crime, not merely harassment. Until people are ready to accept responsibility for holding the perp responsible, there will be no justice for the victim.

    • I don’t know if we are the same age, but yes when I was young it was even worse than it is today. Until we change the attitudes toward sexual assault and rape, we will never hold those who believe they can do anything they wish accountable for their actions.

  6. I had a conversation about this with a 90-year-old man recently. He started it and his biggest question was, “Why did these women wait so long?” I tried to explain the persona involved and the credibility issues. He felt no more harm would have been done had the first one come forward immediately. It was a different time. No good. Anyway, the man is also from a different time and he feels all the ladies are gold diggers.

    What a conundrum. As always, a thought provoking post. Thank you. ❤ ❤

  7. Move over Catholic Church we have a winner. Hollywood has long nurtured the notion that it is OK to abuse women, children and men, beautifully hidden under the safety net of “fame”. Name one Hollywood actor or director that has been put behind bars for sexually abuse? OK, maybe Fatty Arbuckle. Despite the fact we all know the term “director’s couch” we seem to accept that that is the way some actresses, child actors and actors get their “big break”. How often have you heard “I wonder who they had to sleep with to get the part?” . Unfortunately, like the church, the movie industry has attracted paedophiles, rapists and abusers because it is “protected” . I can imagine “who is going to believe you” is a popular catchphrase amongst the perps.

    It is hard enough for a victim of abuse to come forward, especially when it is a family member as the ramifications can tear their families apart but taking on Hollywood…. sheez. The wall of silence is deafening especially when the “you will never work in this town again” is left ringing in their ears. Add on top of that, victims are probably already suffering from low self esteem so the very thought of having to take on the media and angry fans would stop them in their tracks.

    Sadly, for a famous person to be convicted one voice isn’t enough . You virtually have to drag in an ensemble of victims before you have a chance of just being believed.

    Hooray For Hollywood ….

  8. I just heard today that he was doing stand-up again. And I don’t care about his reputation either if he does not.

  9. Reblogged this on When Women Inspire and commented:
    A powerful perspective on sexual assault and, in particular, the Bill Cosby issue. Thank you to Val of QBC_Tilted Tiara for writing such a thought-provoking post. Reblog!

  10. Val, amazing. I am going to reblog onto When Women Inspire. Your words about believing the victim first and foremost is what I believe too. Especially with there being so many. It is embarrassing and often tears your world apart to come forward as a sexual assault victim. I feel for anyone going through it, regardless of whether they report it or not. The unreported numbers of sexual assault victims is likely bigger than we even realize.

  11. It’s just all heartbreaking, frankly. I do not know enough to say I believe anyone or I disbelieve anyone. It’s just all really sad.

    • Yes, it is.

      • I so agree. For those falsely accused, the accusation is enough to ruin their lives. For those attacked and disbelieved, the experience ruins their lives. I can’t say I believe or I do not. My instinct is to think where there is smoke there is fire, but I don’t have enough information to decide.

        It’s all really sad.

  12. Val once again you highlight what is wrong with our society.. and I thank you and Deborah for your wise words and empathy .. Living in the UK I have heard the name of Bill Cosby but had to look up his history on the net..

    And I am reminded so much how those in powerful positions abuse and get away with it..
    Here we had our own long court case after the death of Jimmy Savile http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Savile_sexual_abuse_scandal
    This then led to other celebrates of the same era being charged and convicted..

    What was brought out in the court cases were that TOP level officials squashed the allegations which were brought to the polices attention at the time.. It went as as far up as Willie Whitelaw who was then the Home Secretary in the Government .. If you type in {Willie Whitelaw ordered police to scrap enquiry into VIP sex abuse ring} you will find the full story on the ‘Mail online’ daily paper.. in the 80’s.

    Its my own opinion that there are still lots of people still alive that went right to the top, even to the top of the judicial system that is why its been covered up..

    We have also had abuse on a massive scale within children’s homes here in the UK .. It hit the headlines, police knew it was happening.. and children were not believed or worse ignored because of the repercussions.. The scale of it is awful..

    It is time society DID BELIEVE… and then DO SOMETHING about these monsters that use their positions to pray on woman and children..

    Bless you for always Caring and for adding your energy to expose those who need exposing.
    Love Sue ❤

  13. What an asshole…
    I always thought he
    looked creepy so
    I believe them too…

    Great posting Val
    but then you always
    add meaningful
    one’s my lovely friend 🙂

    Enjoy your Monday dear friend 🙂

    Andro xxx

  14. In the Eighties, I worked freelance in TV commercial film production. It was high pressure, very competitive and paid very well. My rate was $350 a day and I was barely 25-years-old. There was so much horn dogging, especially married guys in power chasing young women. I was lesbian (and in the closet because in those days, if you were out, you wouldn’t get hired) so I kept my distance while still trying to come across as social. There was one director about my dad’s age who I worked for who was always kissing women on the mouth. It was gross and I hated it. Looking back, he was one of the better ones because it never went beyond that and thankfully, he wasn’t sticking his tongue down our throats. The women all talked about it amongst each other, but back then, no one ever referred to it as what it was: harassment. And no one ever suggested hitting him with a lawsuit. We wanted the work. If these low level guys behaved so inappropriately and got away with it, it does not surprise me that someone sky high level like Cosby would be an egregious serial abuser. Also, I can see how in 2015, he denies he did anything wrong decades ago because it was a “don’t ask/don’t tell” era. I am sure that it was behavior that people who worked on the production side of “The Cosby Show” knew about, the way I knew that those many TV commercial film directors and cameramen were openly cheating on their wives like they were Don Draper, but there was a code of silence. Someone with credibility who worked production who Cosby did not abuse (like a straight guy) needs to take a stand and admit what was going on, but will anyone do that? I am sure those people were paid very well and by being a Friend of Bill Cosby, their lucrative careers in TV continued long after “The Cosby Show” ended.

    • Thank you for this one. Yes, I suspect there are more stories like yours than not out there. When you think about the timeline, his opportunities and what it took for just these 24 women to come out it is frightening. But when you also consider this isn’t the first time these stories have emerged, no one paid attention, well it is damned sad.

  15. Powerful post, Val. Whenever there’s news like this in the news I think of you and wonder what you’ll say. You’re my go-to person for politics, race and women’s issues. Looking forward to your post on the Paris tragedy. By the way, did you see PBS’ Frontline this week. It was an excellent overview of the power of the NRA. Worth seeing.

    • Thank you Monica. I feel honored. I am still absorbing Paris in the light of Nigeria. Trying to understand our selective concern.

      I did not see Frontline, but will go find it and watch, Thanks.

  16. I don’t understand why people question why these women didn’t come forward at the time (if the allegations are true). Can you imagine being a young woman in that environment accusing and speaking out against the very famous and powerful Bill Cosby? Who would believe them? Especially back then. I think it’s very easy to understand why they didn’t come forward. It’s usually only when one brave soul speaks up that the others dare follow. For Rashad to come out and say “forget those women” is ignorant and callous. She has no idea what happened. At best, she should remain silent. We should all know by now that people can seem to be one thing up close and yet behind closed doors be something very different.

    • It is very easy to understand, especially after in the environment of Hollywood. That is the think Carrie, time and again we have seen people say about their friends, neighbors and loved ones, ‘we didn’t know’, yet here we are again and the truth is we don’t know.

  17. Writing those posts helped move me closer to understanding, but questions and memories continue swirling around my brain.

    I wrote in a comment once that my family was impacted by four sex offenders, but that number is too low. I don’t think I would have put it together without those posts.

    There were, in rough order:

    1. An uncle who was a convicted pedophile; he paid money to all the kids who’d sit on his lap, but I declined having been cautioned to steer clear of him
    2. A neighbor who revealed himself to me
    3. The offender I testified against
    4. Another family member
    5. The husband of a lady I babysat for, who came home early and kept moving closer and trying to pull me to him, but finally desisted when I told him emphatically I needed to go home NOW. I told my mom, who told the lady. The lady’s husband said, “My husband already told me about your daughter trying to seduce me,” leading my mom to a very impassioned, incredulous analysis of what eleven-year-olds are interested in, “seducing middle aged men” being nowhere on the list.
    6. A stranger who pulled my youngest sister into park bushes but was caught by a stranger
    7. A family friend who, again, proved to be no kind of friend (despite having a wife, unlike #3)

    I see people saying “not in my neighborhood,” but these were–with one exception–the offenders I encountered in a three- or four-mile radius. Mine was a “good” neighborhood, too.

    When we disbelieve, it allows offenders to keep offending, secure in the knowledge fear, shame and a host of other responses will prevent victims/survivors from coming forward.

    I have no place in my heart for disbelief, nor desire for recrimination. I believe … that it happened, that it is terrible and was solely the offender’s fault, that there is hope, that in the light of love we will shape a new world.

    I love you.

    • I love you also. Thank you for your inspiration and your deep empathy. Your two posts gave me great clarity and after sitting her for most of the day I was finally able to order my thoughts.

  18. I don’t know. This isn’t so black and white. I would never say I believe someone right off. I mean, there have been many African American males to be accused when there was consent by the other party and many times, by white women. I don’t know what’s going on with Bill and these women. I question them both. You’ve got a celebrity who, allegedly, used it and possibly drugs, in which some women admitted taking willingly. WHY? One woman admitted that she remembers taking pills, willingly, and his taking advantage of her and “I remember it because it wasn’t good.” When is rape supposed to be good? Then she said she thinks it happens more than once. Why, if it did happen, did she keep allowing herself to be in that position? That’s not credible and that’s what makes it challenging to believe women.

    What’s not smart on the part of women is to not put themselves in vulnerable positions. Drinking oneself into a slumber in public or at frat parties simply isn’t responsible. It doesn’t give anyone a right to do anything harmful but it’s NEVER a smart move.

    On the other side, it is arrogant on a man’s part to take advantage. Clearly, he’s got self image issues, angry at the world or some psychological deficit.

    To believe just because a woman says so is divisive to the genders.

    • And this is why women don’t report. Exactly this. Because we, who were not there are quick to pick apart their stories and shift the blame to them.

      This is why. Because we are quick to say, I do not believe you.

      This is why. Because we are quick to find some reason, any reason to defend the man who assaulted them, raped them.

      This is why, because it is far easier to blame the victim of a sexual assault than to blame the man who assaulted her.

      You are right just because, in this case one woman said so doesn’t make it true, but 24 have said so. This isn’t new it has been going on for decades. He has paid settlements. It was known, but kept quite.

      It finally came out in the open, not because the women came forward but because a man came forward. It wasn’t the women, it was a man that brought it all into the light, a man that was believed.

      But this is why we, that is victims of rape and sexual assault do not come forward because the first thing we are confronted with is ‘I DON’T BELIEVE YOU’.

      • I’m repeating what the woman said. I heard her. She is one woman I question. I can’t speak the same for all the other women. She made the statement, not me.

        • I understand what you are repeating, I do. I have listened to all of them. The thing is, most victims do not remember perfectly. Rape or a sexual assault is never easy, it is a traumatic. Victims of sexual assault rarely remember perfectly, rarely can even tell the story of their assault the same twice.

          But this is why I didn’t focus on Bill Cosby and his 24 victims. I focused on why we don’t report. Why so many serial rapists get away with it for so very long. No one, not one of us knows what happened but those who were there, we will each look at this through the lens of our experiences and understanding of rape and sexual assault. Some of us will have personal experience, some of us won’t. Some of us will have personal bias because of that experience some of us won’t.

          Facts though don’t lie, that is why I included statistical and medical information with the post.

  19. Thank you for this. I’m feeling too exhausted to write about this because as a survivor, I’m just too tired.

    • It took me decades, yes decades to be able to say I am a survivor, this happened to me.

      Now, I use the story to talk to juvenile sex offenders. But like you, I wasn’t going to write, until that one statement, ‘Forget those women’, finally forced me out of my silence.

      I understand your silence and your exhaustion. I am sorry.

  20. **I believe you. I trust you. I love you. I will protect you.**

    Did you know that a woman is hit 35 times before she reports it to the police?

    Anyhow…

    I believe the women. I believe BC is an abuser. I believe he NEVER thought he’d get caught because he has so much POWER, support, love.

    I believe he is a sick son-of-a-bitch.

    …. but I still believe in redemption, in forgiveness.

    He must stand up and take responsibility. He must look each woman in the face and say “I AM SORRY.”

    And MEAN it.

    If not, I’m sad for his soul.

    xxx kISS

    • I suspect, most of us, like you and I believe the twenty-four women Kim. I too, believe in redemption.

      This is a sad and terrible story. I wish these women grace and peace.

  21. Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

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