I want to talk about victims and victors concerning surviving sexual abuse.
It is not easy for anyone who has been sexually abuse to come forward with their experiences. For many thousands of years, women, in particular, have experienced sexual abuse. With the stories that have been recorded about women being sexually assaulted, they will tell you that it took them a very long time to come out. The reason why it is so difficult for women to admit that they have been sexually abused because of all the messages that society has constructed into “truths.” Women who have been sexually abused know what typically happens when one admits that they have been sexually harmed through previous examples of those who have told before them. Growing up as an individual who was born in the 80s, grew up in the mid-80s, and grew up entirely in the 90s, I will tell you that exposure of women being sexually abused, sexually harmed, etc. was at its height (and more so now in the Millennium). Even before then, the way American women have been treated has an important legacy. Our American women’s history tell us the tales of how women could not vote, could not own property and were the property of men. Think about that…the property of men. Our foremothers, our fore-sisters, were once the property of men. And let me tell you…my fore black mothers, black sisters, black grandmothers, etc. were SLAVE property. When I say that, oh, we had it worse than white women. We were treated worse than cattle. Black female slaves were used to breed more slaves, more of an “impure” race, to continue to the slavocracy during that time. Anyone who was not considered purely white and could not pass—they were considered black. During slavery, if it was found out that you were passing as white and slave owners or others who supported slavocracy knew it, slave owners and others alike tried to make sure you become a slave.
I say all this because history does not repeat itself. I don’t really believe that notion. I believe when you look at history, you are looking at a continuum of certain of events that have never really been cured—but half way treated.
All this is relevant to the Bill Cosby situation. When I talk about American women’s history, when I talk about women once being property and/or treated like property, it all boils down to power. The Bill Cosby situation is an excellent example of how we all have to continue to fight and solve the issues of individuals abusing power.
Let’s talk about power and what power is. Dictionary.com defines power as I want to describe in this writings as this instance: “the possession of control or command over others; authority;ascendancy” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/power?s=t).
Power is when someone uses it to control someone. Power is when someone abuses his or her authority to take control over someone’s else power so they can manipulate them. When one is abused, manipulation is one of the acts that comes into play in gaining power over that other person.
Many individuals who are sexually abuse are victims at first. They are victimized by an authority figure or someone that they know. Usually, this powerful person is seductive. He or she instinctively preys on individuals he/she knows that are easy to prey upon. What abuse is about is power. In order to exercise that power, one must seduce and/or manipulate in what he/she wants from that individual.
Due to the power of, historically, how women are viewed, how women should act, and/or how women should be, for women who are abused, it is very difficult for us to come out. Usually, when we come out and say someone has harmed us, it is not taken seriously. It is laughed upon. It’s…you sure about that? You sure that you aren’t overreacting? You sure that he/she didn’t mean any harm? Maybe you are too sensitive?
In certain situations when abuse happens, it heightens the fear of whether or not in wanting to tell someone or somebodies. You start realizing that if you tell someone…they may not believe you. Then, you start thinking…okay, they believe, but then what? What will happen to me? I may not have a normal life. There will be a lot of people judging me. When it comes to sexual abuse in particularly, a woman can be shamed. “Well, maybe he/she misunderstood the way you dressed?” “Well, you slept with him/her the night before? Maybe you just didn’t feel like it.” “Why would you say something NOW after all of this time?” “You were a kid then…you sure you remember correctly?”
Listen, I understand that people do not want to accuse someone especially of a crime. Or defame his or her reputation. The outsiders who were not involved in the situation but was told the situation want to give people in the entire situation (like me…I try to be as logical as possible and fair in my assessment) the benefit of the doubt.
But people, sometimes, the writing is right on the wall, and people choose to ignore it.
In almost a week’s time, there have been several more victims stating that Bill Cosby drugged them and raped them or sexually assaulted them several decades ago. There has been over 15 women now that have “alleged” this.
It can very difficult in not believing the women who are making statements that Cosby sexually assaulted them. Because look at who we are talking about. It’s Bill Cosby.
What does Bill Cosby represent?
For American culture, he represents one of the all American fathers in not just popular culture. In the black community, Bill Cosby represents how all black men should strive to become successful husbands, fathers, citizens, and professionals in American society. The Cosby Show represents him as Heathcliff Huxatable who is married to his wife, Claire. The good wholesome father who is a good husband and provider. He and his wife are in an egalitarian relationship and work together very well. They love each other unconditionally and their children. Bill Cosby and Cliff Huxtable, for many of us, are one in the same and have been for a very long time. We have individuals thinking that Bill Cosby is actually the true representation of his character on television. What also shows is that Bill Cosby is a successful black man as well. Looking at black history, black men were lynched and emasculated. Black men were denied rights that led to opportunities to be successful. If anything, Bill Cosby is one of the most successful black men in our American culture. One reason why he is so successful and looked upon so reverent is because of when he became successful. The Cosby Show debuted on September 20, 1984 and concluded on April 30, 1992. The show eight year run was during the Reagan era and the Bush era. Both of these eras showed how black America was in quite turmoil with a lot of gang violence, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and how black communities were very poverty stricken. He is important figure in American culture because of the haunting legacy of how blacks have been treated in American society. He has defied all the odds not only relating to how blacks were treated several hundred years ago. Bill Cosby created a character and a show to juxtapose the representation of how other black folks live in America as well.
For many people who are fans, I am sure they are having a difficult time with believing these women coming forward. Now, we have over fifteen women who are “alleging” that he sexually assaulted them. As someone who has been sexually harassed, more than once, as a teenager, a young woman, and an adult woman, I know how difficult it can be to come forward. I know how difficult it can be to remain silent due to the pressures of not wanting to accuse someone. Not wanting to get someone fired. Not wanting to get someone in trouble. Then to come forward where everyone doesn’t believe you…
I tell you two cases of this happening to me.
One was in high school. I had this suitor who happened to be a track star. He pursued me. At first, like any teenager girl, I was flattered. This guy even went as far as to come to my house and ask my mom could he court me. However, I just wasn’t attractive to him.
It started when he would touch my breast. At first, I did not make a big stink about it, BUT I did tell him that it was inappropriate and not to do it again. However, he did do it again, and I stood up to him. I remember once I laid down the law, he pretty much grabbed my wrist so tight I felt like he would break it. Prior, before he did this, he pretty much told me…
“Well, you know, if you tell anyone, no one will believe you. You really think they would believe you over me, the track star, of the team.”
As he grabbed my wrists, those words echo through my mind, the combination of him echoing those words and grabbing my wrists set me on fire. Instead of it silencing me, I went directly to the assistant principal, and they pretty much put his ass on his punishment.
And you are thinking…alright, Sophia, way to a go! You told, but I was ostracized by my peers. All the female high school students in my health occupations class pretty much was surrounded by the table talking about how I unfairly put the track star in-school suspension. One of them came to the table and ask…how could you do that? My character was put under the radar (I wasn’t well like in high school by many anyway, so, let’s shit on Sophia even more). I had no RIGHT to report him. How dare I report him? What was the matter with me? He didn’t do anything bad.
Then, the other time was when I was a Mormon (I did not belong to the illegal church…I belonged the Latter Day Saints that is legal)…
One of my former classmate friends picked me up, and we were talking, and out of nowhere, he grabbed my breast. I was in such a shock that I yelled at him and pushed his hand away. He was like he was sorry. I assumed that since he thought I was black that it was okay just to grab my breast. I suspect that he thought that all black women were fast and wanted sex. Due to him having an opportunity while he had me in the car, he would test me out. I did not even see it coming. I was so confused and felt ashamed because at that time I was religious and was dedicated the church. I went to the bishop at the time and told him what happened. He told me basically the guy did not know better and let it go.
The reason why I am tying my experiences in with the women who have stated that Bill Cosby assaulted them is because….
Whether it is on a celebrity scale or in “normal” life, women/men are sexually assaulted. Those who do not come forth to anyone about what happened to them know how difficult it can be. In those two instances, it was difficult for me, and I did it.
Those experiences, in some ways by others, were minimize. Yes, the track star got into trouble, but my character stood further trial by my peers. When I visited the Bishop and told him what happened to me, he told me to forgive the former friend because he did not know what he was doing even the Bishop said that it was not my fault.
These women all collectively said that Bill Cosby drugged them, and some of them have said when they woke up after they were drugged, they found semen inside them, or their clothes were a mess. Some of them have admitted that Cosby made them performed forced sexual acts on him while they weren’t drugged. All this happened throughout different times in Cosby’s career. When some of them did try to tell, they weren’t believed. They were laughed off with…He’s Bill Cosby…you are crazy.
Because of Bill Cosby’s stance in American culture, it is hard for some people to believe that he would do this. As I mentioned, he’s one of America’s fathers. It can be hard for particular ethnic groups to believe that Bill Cosby would be capable of this behavior as well. It is hard to speak out against someone or have a differing opinion if you are black. In the black community, from what I know as being black and study black culture and reading about black culture and experiencing black culture and doing a thesis about black culture, blacks have witnessed and experienced many horrors throughout American history. For those black Americans who have become successful, it took a lot of work to break down color barriers. Bill Cosby did that and so has many other black Americans. However, yes, he is a successful black man, BUT it still does not excuse the very possible dark acts he has committed. Due to the nature of how many women are coming forth and their stories being similar, it is starting to become less and less apparent to me that Bill Cosby did do something to these women.
Now, I know I am going to get flack, and you can bring it own, Folks. I respect your opinions. I am not going to stop being friends with you if you think that Bill Cosby is innocent and all of these women are lying. But from my own experiences and the way I read people, deep down, I don’t feel like these women are banding together and lying on him. In context, those who are sexually abused, they do take a long time to admit that they were sexually abused. For those of us like me who have reported the abuse, we still don’t talk about it willingly to people unless it is relevant to something else or in a relation to something else. It is difficult to come forth, and it is difficult to talk about. It is not easy to talk about because if someone like me who is prideful and still doesn’t want people to look at her a certain way, you just aren’t going to mention it unless it is in relation to something. Also, let’s think about the time period and where they were at. These women’s accounts, if not all, happened over a thirty-five year span; women were still not believed for being sexually assaulted. Most of these women were young women who tried to get a start in their career. It appears that Cosby did prey on them. He selectively chose them to help them in their career. If we look at the timeline, these women all of the sudden were dropped from Cosby’s mentorship. And why is that? Good question, isn’t it? It is not so believable that the reason why his mentorship stopped was because they were victimized by him?
It is hard enough for survivors of abuse to become victors—to not only survive but to go on beyond survival.
One of the most beloved entertainers of the world has his character on public trial. But some people want to put these women’s characters on trial as well. I want people to put in the effort and look at this objectively. Why would all these women come forward after several decades where the statues of limitations are expired? They want attention and fame? Really? Would all of them really band together and plan an evil assault on Bill Cosby AFTER the fact?
Maybe, just maybe, they are coming forth now because they are tired of what Cosby did controlling their lives. I believe they want to become free of Cosby’s sexual victimization of them.
As for Bill Cosby, the most intriguing part is…
He has not even deny it simply that he didn’t do this.
Despite all of this, he does have the right to say without consequence he didn’t do this?
Bottom line is…these women stories are important, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt as well.
Sophia Muriel Flemming