I’m just going to risk several friendships and the approval of others by just being a bit raw and open and honest here. But I’ve got to get this topic out so I can write other, better, more edifying things.
(Trigger Warning if you a survivor of sexual assault)
I’m tired of the hypocrisy of so many people when it comes to sexual assault and rape. I’m tired of the people who are more than happy to believe every woman who came forward and accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, harassment, and rape; yet, their favorite person of color, Bill Cosby, gets accused by 32 (last I checked) women and obviously it’s a grand conspiracy against their favorite TV dad to “silence” him. Rush Limbaugh insinuates on his program that it’s a conspiracy. Glenn Beck calls it a “rape” by the media against Cosby.
Even Bill Cosby jokes about it recently on stage in Canada. Really? If you are accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women are you going to make a joke about it? That’s just bad taste and is nothing but brazen. Oh, and let’s not talk about Cosby in 1969 making jokes on stage about drugging and raping women. Nah, he couldn’t nearly be guilty of any of this, right?
My facebook feed has seen plenty of people defending Cosby. The few of my friends who have actually tried to give the accusers the benefit of the doubt are mocked and called liberals (because “liberal” is a great big insult to wield when someone defends a woman). Then, the armchair pundits say all sorts of great comments like:
- Why did the accusers take so long to come forward? (more on that below)
- Why didn’t the women fight back? (keep reading)
- They just want the money. That’s why they are saying this now. (yes, because a paltry settlement might make up for all the mud slung their way)
- The liberals just want to shut him up. (enough conspiracy sites for you!)
- This is a destruction of his legacy. (legacy, really? He’s a comedian and culture pundit)
- Doctor Huxtable would never hurt anyone (uh, hello, that was a character he played, that’s not really him)
- Innocent until proven guilty. (unless you are a victim)
- The women are sluts, whores, greedy, etc. (oh, victim shaming, my favorite!)
But, my frustration is relieved some when I start to read of people like Jay Leno say, “I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women. You to go Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.” Not to mention the Tina Fey & Amy Poehler monologue at the Golden Globes.
So, here, I’m going to say this…
Until you have been a victim of sexual assault or sat by as a loved one suffered after sexual assault, I’m going to ask you to shut your damn mouth. Seriously, shut it. Don’t opine, don’t comment, and don’t say a damn word. (Oh, sorry if I just offended your sensibilities by using the word damn. I wanted to use something stronger but refrained).
I have family members and friends who have been through this. Guess what? You don’t always fight back. Sometimes you freeze. Sometimes you don’t know what to do because the situation is so surreal and so out of control that you almost have an out of body experience trying to process what is happening to you. Or you are so afraid worse harm could come. So you freeze. You just let it happen.
Sometimes you never tell and it only comes out years, even decades later. Sometimes you don’t know how to say it. The words just don’t come. Maybe it happened around the holidays and you don’t want to ruin it for everyone. Maybe you are ashamed and broken and don’t know the words to say. Maybe your job would be in jeopardy and you really need the money. Maybe you don’t want to ruin a friend’s life because it was their dad who hurt you. Maybe you don’t want to devastate a relative. Maybe you know it’ll tear your family apart. Maybe your clergy convinces you to keep quiet for the sake of their church. Maybe you are afraid of what your parents might do because they always said, “I’ll kill anyone who harms you.”
There are as many different reasons for not coming forward as there are assault victims. The fear that gripped you as you were being violated takes over your mind and slowly strangles you, constricting your vocal cords and shutting down reasonable thought.
Sometimes you have to see the person who assaulted you again. You might go to church with them. You might work with them. You might be family members. You might be in the same class. You are scared out of your mind, but there they are smugly aware of how they violated you, relishing their victory over you, that control they still wield. And even if they never touch you again, that feeling of being violated remains.
There are a million reasons why sexual assault victims don’t tell. Right now, according to most figures, anywhere from 55-70% of assaults are not reported. Let that number sink in. That’s huge. That means most victims don’t tell. And an even greater number of assaults on military facilities and college campuses go unreported. The number is even greater when the victim is male. The number is also greater when the victim knows the attacker.
There is too much victim shaming. Sexual assault cases in this country have become situations where the victim is on trial as much or more as the perpetrator. There is too much judgment against the victims. What was she wearing? Was there alcohol involved? Why didn’t she say no? Why didn’t he come forward sooner? Is it any wonder why people are afraid to come forward and tell their story?
Based on personal experience with friends/relatives, I’m willing to entertain the thought that Bill Cosby is a terrible, perverted, twisted sexual predator. Are all 32 women telling the truth? Perhaps not. But are all 32 women liars? Talk about a grand conspiracy. And what are they going to get out these accusations? The odds are they aren’t going to get money. Bill Cosby has entrenched himself. Most are past the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. These ladies know they are going to get excoriated in the public.
Perhaps they are just tired of staying silent. Perhaps they have finally conquered that fear that’s gripped them for so long. Perhaps they realize now they were never alone. Perhaps they are hoping that by coming forward other victims in the future won’t have to stay silent. But until you’ve walked the road of sexual assault, try not to crucify the victims. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Show compassion. It’s the right thing to do.
It’s like Atticus Finch’s statement in To Kill a Mockingbird, “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”