We’ve all been inundated with the phrase “sexual assault” thanks to the seemingly endless parade of women that have accused comedian Bill Cosby of doing it to them.
Some of the reactions to the Cosby allegations led to my going on the Google and finding this graph that talks about sexual assault, what happens when its reported and the kind of justice, or lack thereof, that women generally get when it’s reported.
What I’ve learned from watching how the Cosby accusations have been playing out, especially on social media, is that a lot of people have no clue about the trauma that a woman (or a man) 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 been really hard not to tell a whole bunch of people that I otherwise respect that (a) I’m disappointed that you’re that insensitive, (b) I’m disappointed that your that clueless, and (c) fuck you. But I’ve managed to hold my tongue and be respectful enough to stick to repeating the statistics I’ve noted above.
But I’ve gotta tell you. It pisses me off.
Especially since some of the people shoveling this nonsense at me know what happened on June 14, 1994.
On June 14, 1994, I was on my own, meaning that I wasn’t in a relationship, for the first time in five years. My fiancee’ and I decided that his desire for a home cooked meal when he walked in the door wasn’t going to mesh with my desire to be a professional journalist, so we called it quits.
I was doing something that I hadn’t done a lot…I was dating. I’d let folks take me out to dinner or maybe a movie, but I told them that I didn’t want anything serious because once you’ve been engaged, you need to kind of disengage for a while. I wasn’t sleeping around or anything, but there was one guy I had been intimate with.
I went to visit him at his apartment here in Philly on June 14, 1994, just to hang out. I was in the mood to watch TV, maybe snuggle, mostly talk.
But it turned into something else. Something ugly. Something it took me a long time to talk about.
It turned into a sexual assault.
You don’t know just how powerless you are until you find yourself on the wrong end of something like this. There’s a lot of indignity involved. It starts with being forced to do something that you until that moment only associated with desire. Then, there’s the whole power thing.
When he asked me if I enjoyed it, it was all I could do not to take the advice CNN’s Don Lemon gave to one of Cosby’s alleged victims and bite him in a place where teeth aren’t actually welcomed.
All that I wanted to do was leave. Quickly. I wanted to be elsewhere. I wanted to no longer have his smell on my clothes and on my person. I wanted to be where I felt even a little safe.
I wanted to be at home.
Now I know that the next question that some of you are going to have is “Well, why didn’t you report it?”, followed closely by “You were in his apartment. You should have known what was going to happen. You had been with this person before. Consent was implied.”
Those are all good questions…I guess. A little insensitive. A mite ignorant. But logical.
You see, in 1994, Pennsylvania’s sexual assault laws were such that a woman charging someone she knew with a crime like this would have to have bruises or other marks to even get the police involved.
Unfortunately, because I read a story about a woman who had gone through that indignity, I knew that. So I didn’t bother. In fact, I left town…
When he called my parent’s house looking for me, I finally told my Dad. Crying when I heard his name kind of forced that.
And my guess is that every person, no matter how far away they’re removed from that kind of trauma, feels the exact same way.
That’s why the demands for court records, police reports and other proof from people who insist that (a) the allegations against Cosby are a plot to bring down a powerful Black man by a cabal of thirsty White women who didn’t get all they wanted after a one-night stand; (b) it’s a plot to bring down a powerful Black man who is saying things that liberals don’t want to hear (don’t laugh…I’ve heard that…); or (c) it’s a conspiracy of another kind, make my head spin.
You’re telling someone that unless they go into a courtroom and put themselves into a position where their sexual history (but not the history of the accused), and their credibility (but not the credibility of the accused) are laid bare, you’re not going to believe that they were victimized.
And you’re also not going to take into consideration that this trauma is multiplied by eleventybillion when the person at the defense table is a rich, powerful entertainer with a flotilla of lawyers whose mission in life is to flay the accused.
I recognize that there are a few sociopaths out there that make up accusations of sexual assault. I get it.
But in the case of Bill Cosby, a conspiracy this large would require a hell of a meeting.
So how about if we stop allowing sexual assault to be the only crime out there in which the victim is automatically assumed to be lying?
As someone who’s gone through that kind of trauma, I’d really appreciate it.