“The comedian[ Bill Cosby], fighting an onslaught of accusations that he sexually assaulted more than two dozen women over many years, is paying six-figure fees to private investigators for information that might discredit his alleged victims. Multiple sources confirmed that Cosby, through his Hollywood attorney Martin Singer, is implementing a scorched-earth strategy in which anything negative in his accusers’ pasts is fair game.”
Yes, it was on Page Six of the New York Post. Yes, it is citing anonymous “sources.” But I think it would be incredibly naïve not to understand that this is a story that was generated by Team Cosby, serving the function of threatening current accusers, dissuading potential future accusers, planting seeds of doubt, and testing the waters to see if this is a strategy that will be well-received in Cosby’s struggle to win back his reputation.
Which is why I am going to respond to it.
I remember in the bad old days when a defense attorney was allowed to introduce a victim’s entire sexual history in a rape trial. In 1973 I saw how my sweet, hippie housemate, who was a victim of a knifepoint rape, was decimated by her rape trial, where her middle-class rapist, sitting next to his wife and children, actually laughed at her while her freewheeling ‘60’s-style sexual liberation was paraded past a puritanical judge.
And I know that one of the ways that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” played out in the military was in the rape and sexual harassment of lesbian soldiers. Their assailants could blackmail them into silence with threats of “outing” them. Lesbians were actually targeted because of this vulnerability. Now that DADT is gone, lesbians face the same 30% vulnerability to sexual assault that their heterosexual sisters-in-arms confront. And a whopping 85% of women who report military rape are discharged, usually without medical benefits for treating their PTSD. The women are usually accused of fabricating, exaggerating, and/or blaming the military rape for symptoms they already had from previous rapes.
I wanted my day in court, and, against my attorney’s strenuous objections, I turned down the offer. I knew how much money the credit fraud was raising for the university, and the settlement they were offering was not even close. I could do the math as well as they could, and I knew that wealthy perpetrators nearly always can buy their victims’ silence at bargain basement prices. Or, at least, prices that are worth it to them.
So, here is where I’m feeling the pain of the Cosby victims. The state Attorney General sicced his dogs on me. The AG’s office requested seven years of my tax filings, just to see if I would flinch. What did my taxes have to do with anything? Well, most folks would squirm at having a battery of government attorneys take a microscope to their tax filings of seven years. They did it just to scare me off the suit. They deposed everyone who might ever possibly have been a friend, fellow-student, or a colleague, just to see if they could destroy my networks. A deposition is a very, very unpleasant, under-oath procedure that goes on for hours. I lost many friends. My colleagues felt violated and compromised by having ever associated with me. I would never get recommendations from them. The whole time this “investigation” was pending was a nightmare. It was a form of legal stalking.
And I have my own story to tell. It’s not a rape story, but it is a story of a young woman (me) who attempted to speak truth to power and, as a result, became a target for a vicious witchhunt. I was a whistleblower for a credit fraud scandal at a large state university. I was told by the head of my grad school department, on orientation day, that all the students who were on state fellowships would be required to participate in credit fraud. Every professor in the department was in the room when they did this. They did not use the word “credit fraud,” but they did say we would be required to register for six hours every semester of courses that did not exist. We were instructed to register for these as pass/fail “Reading and Conference” classes. Needless to say, we were assured we would pass.
I resigned from the program and reported the practice. The university attempted to frame it as a misunderstanding, but when I refused to go along with the cover-up, they offered to investigate themselves… you know, like the military does. It took them a year to release their results, and not surprisingly the official report was unable to turn up any evidence of fraud, but they were able to determine that I was “emotionally unstable.” Yeah. They had no idea.
So I have a gut understanding of what Cosby is going to do. And, of course, he’s going to find stuff. Because we are all human. Sadly, he will probably find stuff that will make some of his accusers settle with him or back off entirely. Because getting violated twice by the same perpetrator is more than many of us could bear.
But something happened. The women of America who had watched the hearings, the women of America—a majority of whom had suffered harassment ourselves and lost jobs because of it—rose up and said, "We believe Anita." It was on buttons and bumper stickers all over the country. Dr. Hill ended up teaching at Brandeis, becoming a national role model, and going down in history as the woman who put sexual harassment on the national agenda. She changed the lives of millions of women.
I want to suggest a hashtag campaign of #webelievecosbyaccusers and I want to encourage a bumper sticker campaign, too.
Because I believe Andrea, Tamara, Beth, Barbara, Joan, Linda Joy, Janice, Carla, Louisa, Theresa, Kristina, Renita, Angela, Victoria, Jewell, Judy, Helen, Chelan, Beverly, Choe, Lisa, Kathy... and all the Jane Does who have not come forward publicly... yet.
Let's let Bill Cosby know that this tactic is only going to make it worse for him.