— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) June 30, 2021
Like most of my generation, I was enamored with Bill Cosby, the consummate comedian, paterfamilias, chocolate pudding spokesperson, and chocolate-cake-for-breakfast aficionado.
“Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” with the memorably deep-voiced “Hey, hey, hey, it’s Fat Albert” greeting, was his entre into the world of children’s education and earned him a doctorate from Temple University. Philly guy makes good.
In 2018, he was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004. She is not alone, as numerous women have accused Cosby of drugging and raping them in incidents harkening back more than 40 years.
Many breathed a sigh of relief and offered a thumbs up that he didn’t get away with it and that a predator was off the streets. Three to ten years was the sentence. He served almost three years. No remorse expressed then. None expressed now that he’s walking free on a technicality.
In 2005, then Philadelphia DA, Bruce Castor Jr., had assured Cosby that he would not be charged in the case, thus giving up his Fifth Amendment rights. This, before offering incriminating testimony during the deposition. The most damning:
“When you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?”
“Yes,” Cosby answered.
A sidenote, who woulda thunk that three years later, that same DA would find himself in the spotlight again as one of the defense attorneys for Donald Trump’s second impeachment hearing? Yes, the same man who rambled incoherently at times and used non sequiturs in a trial that was fait accompli, since those on the other side of the aisle had predetermined that they would not vote to convict.
When I heard the news, at first I felt…nothing. Numb. Incredulous.
And then, anger, outrage, sadness, and compassion for his victims who bravely came forward and exposed their private lives.
Since then, I have read social media posts criticizing the women, and not him. Why did they wait so long to come forward? Weren’t they in it for the money or notoriety? Why did they keep coming back for more?
Instead of asking those questions, why weren’t these same people asking why Cosby drugged and assaulted them? Where is his accountability for his actions? And for those who knew it was happening and turned a blind eye—as is the case with so many famous people who abuse their power—why didn’t they come forward?
My response was:
“Have any who are doubting the credibility of the women who came forward been in their situation? I’m a therapist who has worked with sexual assault survivors and many have not told anyone but me. They never pressed charges. They never confronted the perpetrator(s). Our system is set up to put the victim on trial, thus re-traumatizing them. It took courage for these women to step forward. Cosby’s power was undeniable. He was a celebrity. He may have groomed them to be victimized. If someone is too impaired to consent to sex, it is rape, clear and simple.”
I watched an interview last night conducted by Chris Cuomo with Cosby’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean. I cringed as I watched this woman, who if circumstances had been different, might have been one of his victims, defending the outcome.
“These are constitutional safeguards,” Bonjean said. “This isn’t just a matter of technicalities. We are talking about major constitutional principles on which our system rests, and that’s why the remedy was a strong one.”
When Cuomo asked if it was a problem for her that he walked free after 60 women spoke up, her response was that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania did the job they were charged with, to uphold the law rather than being swayed by the court of public opinion.
Remember that the outcome wasn’t an exoneration. The Supreme Court did not say Cosby didn’t do what he was accused of doing.
My heart is with the survivors of the abuse Cosby perpetrated and for those whose memories of abuse throughout their lives were triggered by the court’s decision.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, harassment, or violence, you can get help. To speak with someone who is trained to help with these situations, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.