Earlier this week, when Bill Cosby's publicists put out a call for fans to "meme" the comedian, the Internet responded by highlighting what the Internet has been talking about recently: allegations that Cosby drugged and raped more than a dozen women over several years, which he has consistently denied. Despite the charges being out in the open for at least a decade, the claims went viral recently after comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during a stand-up set last month. Now, one of the women who accused Cosby of raping her is wondering what took so long.
Writing for the Washington Post, actress Barbara Bowman asks why it took one man's jokes to draw widespread attention to Cosby's abuse, despite the fact that she and other women have publicly discussed their assaults for at least 10 years. Bowman lists the various interviews she has given since she first agreed to testify in a lawsuit against Cosby in 2004, then raises a plain question:
Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?
Bowman also points out that Cosby's ability to deflect rape allegations for so long -- and to commit the alleged assaults -- depended heavily not only on the public's inattention, but on the "network of willfully blind wallflowers" that condoned his abuse:
[When] I was a teenager, his assistants transported me to hotels and events to meet him. When I blacked out at Cosby’s home, there were several staffers with us. My agent, who introduced me to Cosby, had me take a pregnancy test when I returned from my last trip with him. Talent agents, hotel staff, personal assistants and others who knowingly made arrangements for Cosby’s criminal acts or overlooked them should be held equally accountable.
Because of the statute of limitations on rape cases, Bowman says Cosby will likely never suffer legal consequences for raping her. And while she and other survivors are working to change the legal system so it will no longer "silence [victims] a second time," it is also up to the public to ensure that men such as Cosby do not walk away without any consequences. We do not have to continue to turn a blind eye.