It appears that it takes more than 10 women to challenge the word of a celebrity. It seems that it is easier for people to believe in the crazy woman, angry teenager or coached child than it is to believe that someone they know has committed a sexual assault.
Because the crime is so horrific we assume the perpetrator must be equally horrific. But that simply isn’t true. Apparently talented athletes, brilliant comedians, and radio personalities are capable of violence against women, children and men. The sexual violence does not negate their other talents, but neither do those talents negate the crime. When we come to understand that sexual violence is an act, not a character trait, then we may grant equal credibility to those who claim abuse and those who claim innocence.
It is worth wondering whether the culture of privilege and the status accorded to celebrities encourages sexually aggressive behavior. But it is not a stretch for many abusers to believe that they will get away with it. Many assaults continue to go unreported. It is clear that reporting a sex crime is a difficult thing to do, under any circumstances. And often the investigation and the prosecution (if there is one) is also traumatizing. Sex crimes should not be prosecuted in the media. Reputations, livelihoods, psychological health and the wellbeing of family members are on the line. False allegations happen. Real sex crimes go unreported.
In the days, weeks and months ahead as the Cosby scandal attracts media interest, women and men may be reminded of their own personal histories of abuse and assault. These will be trying times for them. So please remember when you are talking about the latest celebrity sex scandal, you may be talking with someone who has lived through something similar. And if memories are awakened as they often are during these times, then please take care. You don’t have to “read all about it”.