Bill Cosby is a convicted rapist.
He was found guilty in a Pennsylvania courtroom on April 26, 2018. He has been given not one, but two trials. A jury of his peers weighed the evidence and found Bill Cosby guilty of sexual assault.
Bill Cosby is a rapist.
That’s a hard sentence to grapple with for anyone who came of age with his comforting presence on TV, especially his eponymous family sitcom. The Cosby Show aired from 1984 to 1992. I was eight years old when it started. My parents where divorced and hated each other so much, third parties had to shuttle me between their houses, for fear that their vitriolic barbs would lead to brunt force. By the time The Cosby Show turned up, I was three years into being routinely sexually assaulted by a family member. I didn’t trust parents. I didn’t trust men. And then I met Cliff and Claire Huxtable. The Huxtable where the only example of healthy, functional adults I had ever seen. There was laughter in their house. I cannot impress upon you how much I wanted to escape my life and be a Huxtable.
So when I first learned of the allegations against Bill Cosby — that he drugged and raped women over a period of decades — I was just like everyone else. I was shocked. I didn’t want to believe it. It felt like an important and rare piece of joy from my childhood was ripped away. And then the accusations started piling up — 58 women publicly accusing Cosby of rape. And then Cosby himself admitted it in sworn testimony.
No TV show is worth more than the lives of 58 women. It’s not worth the suffering of any women. Period. So I grieved the loss I felt of one tiny innocent thing I had in a childhood bereft of joy. Because I too was raped by a charismatic man — a father figure — that no one wanted to believe could do such things. So I understand what it feels like to not be believed for decades. I understand what it feels like to have people accuse you of lying, of ruining something or someone they love. I get it. No TV show will stop me from having solidarity with my fellow rape survivors.
Do not let a TV character or the myth of a man blind you from the truth. Do not let fiction turn your back on real women and their real stories.
Already I’ve seen internet chatter about how or if the #MeToo moment contributed to the Cosby guilty verdict. Every person who has told their stories has helped make #MeToo happen. Kesha’s fight against Dr. Luke. Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan speaking out about Harvey Weinstein. The Wall Street Journal breaking the silence about Steve Wynn. The Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky verdicts in the sports world. All the people who told me their stories because they read my story. Just like way back in 1991 when I heard Tori Amos’ “Me and a Gun” and her story of sexual assault and how that liberated a painful, raw place inside myself and started me on a journey to heal myself. … Every single bit of this has pulled society over the line, to a breaking point — to an awakening.
One of the things that is special about the Cosby verdict and the Nassar verdict earlier this year is how they silenced the legal strategy to cast doubt on victims. Cosby’s lawyers cast doubt on his accusers by saying they were liars, they were only looking for a payout. His accusers were put through the usual rape victim ringer. The fact is, there are no “perfect” victims. And it’s a symptom of rape culture and the patriarchal systems that shape it that we only believe the so-called perfect victim story. Nobody is a perfect victim. We’re all flawed. Our pasts, our ideas, our clothes, our drinking and sex habits, our sexuality, our education, our race — it all gets ground up in this blender that helps rapists go free. You shouldn’t have to be a “perfect” person to get justice.
People have been asking what happens next. What happens after #MeToo?
The Cosby verdict is a start. Wynn and Weinstein losing their companies is a start. But the truth is, now comes the really hard work. Our eyes are open. We can’t go back. And as the truth gets exposed about people in every industry, we will have to ask ourselves what we are going to do about it. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to cost us a few heroes and idols and icons. This will test our mettle. But no person’s glory is worth more than another person’s suffering.
I wish Larry Wilmore still had his show today. No one would celebrate this verdict on TV better than him. He used to put up a photo of Cosby and say, “I haven’t forgotten about you, motherfucker!” I love Wilmore for that.
We didn’t forget about you, Bill Cosby. And more importantly, we didn’t forget about your victims.