Tue, Jun

What Bill Cosby’s Conviction Can Tell Us About Rape


BELL VIEW-The conviction of Bill Cosby this week on three counts of aggravated indecent assault once again stirred the pot of the #MeToo movement. By adding race to the mix, Cosby’s conviction gave those frightened of the movement of women to take control of the narrative of their lives more ammunition.

A meme floating around Facebook last week had pictures of five white men caught up in the movement and Bill Cosby. Only the black guy has been convicted of a crime. 

Although true, if Bill Cosby doesn’t belong behind bars, I can’t imagine who does. 

Every move our culture makes these days is fraught with fear and loathing. Does bringing down Bill Cosby reflect America’s racist obsession with black male sexuality? Or does it actually mean that being rich and famous may just not be enough to get you off the hook for raping more than 60 women? Does every man in America need to be looking over his shoulder for some mistake hidden in his past that will bring him down in his old age? Or just the rapists? 

And finally – must we believe everythingwomen say about sexual assault from now on? 

That last question provides the subtext for many of Cosby’s defenders. Witness Cosby’s publicist comparing the former icon’s downfall at the hands of dozens of accusers to the case of Emmett Till – a child brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1950’s Mississippi. Of course, convicting Cosby of rape did not require anyone to take one woman at her word. More than sixty telling virtually identical stories should be sufficient even for the most skeptical among us. 

What Cosby’s conviction did – rather than boost the credibility of any and every woman who ever cried “rape” – is to debunk the bullshit theories defense attorneys have used since the beginning of time to defend rapists. Don’t’ get me wrong, I’m not badmouthing defense attorneys. I used to be one. They have a job to do and a duty to do it zealously. And – for centuries – the tried and true method to defend rapists has been based upon a false belief regarding the psychology and credentials of a legitimate rape victim. 

What the Cosby case proves – just through sheer numbers – is that rape victims virtuallyneverbehave as we have been led to believe they should. The case also proves that rape victims’ pasts, as well as their intentions leading up to the crime, have virtually nothing to do with whether a rape has taken place. A prostitute can be raped by a paying client in the same way a nun can be raped by a pervert hiding in the alley behind the convent. 

Bill Cosby’s conviction won’t make it any easier for rape victims to come forward. They’ll still be attacked and shamed and gaslighted every step of the way. But the example of more than 60 women telling virtually the same story and behaving in much the same way over a period of years should go at least a little way toward debunking the pervasive myths that make convicting rapists so difficult. The arc of Bill Cosby’s history may be long, but, in this case, it ultimately bent towards justice. 

(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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