By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of The Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County
I grew up watching the sitcoms fueled by the comic genius that is Bill Cosby. I watched “Fat Albert”. I watched “The Cosby Show”. I watched “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. I even watched the spin off from “The Cosby Show”. We all adore Bill Cosby.
In 2005 there were some allegations that came out regarding sexual abuse of some women. It is somewhat unclear and foggy in my brain. They were dismissed or swept away very easily. I spent earlier today researching these allegations as a result of some things that hit the media this week —more accusations. I carefully read the three stories of the women who came forward.
I have to say that I feel torn. I want to believe that Bill Cosby would never do any of the things he is accused of. I think about his public image. I think about the thousands of lives he touched (no pun intended) through his television series and through his speeches.
I WANT so badly to believe this is just not true.
The reality is that this is not someone that I know. I have never met Bill Cosby. I have never even been to a live show or really followed any part of his story through the last few years.
As I was researching these allegations I was struck that they came much later on the list that Google selected for me when I typed in the name Bill Cosby. First came the “Pound Cake” speech and then some other controversial articles over his calling out African Americans for not “taking care of their own”.
I read with some interest all over Facebook yesterday the responses to the “new” allegations. I thought to myself, “I imagine that I will be asked to blog on this. I will be asked my response to this.” I had many angles that I could come from. Do I believe the allegations are true? Do I hit at it from the power and control issue? Do I come at it from the consent issue? Do I come at it from the “Hollywood gets away with it again” issue? I am rejecting these, although I think they are all important.
I want to talk a little about how staggering the statistics are around sexual assault in this country.
EVERY 2 MINUTES ANOTHER AMERICAN IS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED.
That is appalling.
60% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
97% OF RAPIST WILL NEVER SPEND A NIGHT IN JAIL. Again – very appalling.
38% of sexual assaults are committed by friends or acquaintances. Two-thirds are committed by someone the victim knows.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Someone that I know was sexually assaulted. She was an adult when it happened. Every one of the above listed statistics fit her case. EVERY. ONE. It remains unprosecuted. Not because there was no evidence. She was beaten up and lucky to have made it through alive. Later it came out through a different process that he continued to harass, intimidate and otherwise abuse women who worked with or around him. This came out much later. I think back now and wonder if people believe what that man did was wrong or if it is just another endearing charming trait he has. “Oh that is just how he is!”
I want to talk about the fact that the statistics are so high that it is true that we either know a sexual assault victim, an offender of sexual assault or both. THINK about that one! It may be possible they are in our family. Whoa!
I want to point out that sexual offenders are people who are likeable in other respects of their lives. I want to point out that sexual offenders are sometime people we love and trust. They are sometimes the heroes in our lives. They are sometime heroes in our children’s lives. They go to work. They donate money to charity. They sometimes do grand things for the community or world at large. They sometimes do these things on behalf of children.
These offenders are people who walk among us undetected for the most part.
I don’t really care about Bill Cosby. I do care about the messaging that goes out every time someone in a position of public trust is accused of such acts and we blame the person who is the victim. Why is it we always as a society respond from a stance of “convince me that it is true” instead of “convince me that it is not true”?
I have spent the majority of my adult life immersed in the world of child sexual assault and peripherally in the world of adult sexual assault and domestic violence. It really is more years than I would care to calculate. I have seen the devastation to families and children because we protect offenders.
I have to remember the general public has not had the opportunity to see the damage cause by offenders in quite the same way that I have. I have to remember I have witnessed things that most people don’t. It changes who you are. It changes what you see. It changes who you will be in the future. It changes EVERYTHING.
One of the most ironic things I have observed is the fact that those same people who are protecting the offenders by not believing the victims are in fact some of the same people who will blame the mom for not leaving the offender. This makes me sad.
Do what I call a “gut” check. What is your first response to hearing the stories about Bill Cosby? Do you believe? If your answer is no, then how is it we can lay judgment on a mom who has lived with her husband for years and thought they had a loving relationship. She thought that he was a wonderful family man. How is it that we can question how hard it would be for her to believe that he sexually abused her children?
I am not saying it is okay for a mom or non-offending caregiver (since it could be a female offender), to take the offender’s word over the victim’s word. I am just saying that we as a society do the same thing every time we don’t believe the victim and defend the actions of the offender.
Have you noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of news coverage on the allegations against Bill Cosby other than on the entertainment news sites? Did you read about the comedian who called Bill Cosby a rapist in one of his shows? Did you read that it had been done a lot so he was surprised that this was a big deal now? It was such a “small” part of his show. Why is that?
I am almost more appalled at the response than I am at the accusations. It appears as long as you have a good P.R. man you can do no wrong.