The scorecard on Bill Cosby reads like this. A dozen or more women have said with only a slight variation in the time, place and circumstance that Cosby seduced them, propositioned them, promised them favors, put them up, even paid them, thendrugged or plied them with alcohol and raped them. One Bill Cosby publicly says the charges are a lie. One man denies the charge. The dozen plus women stick to their stories. Yet a seemingly disgraced but unfazed Cosby took to the stage at King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Florida for ninety minutes to the wild cheers of a sold out crowd that bombarded him with shouts of “We love you Bill Cosby!”
The Cosby audience love fest was not simply an aberration of groupie fan mania. Legions passionately believe Cosby is being wrongly crucified on the cross of raw public opinion by a pack of greedy, publicity seeking, career wrecking, liars and schemers.
It happens to be Cosby. But the ritual of rape denial is virtually written in stone in much of public opinion and far too many police stations and court. Days before the alleged Cosby rape victims paraded forth to retell their sordid stories, literally a sea and an ocean apart, two shocking reports came out that cast yet another brutal and ugly glare on the still rampant rape culture. An Amnesty International commissioned report in Britain found that one third of Britons said a woman rape victim was as much if not more to blame for the rape. This wasn’t all. The overwhelming majority of respondents was absolutely clueless on how widespread rape was in the country, and in nearly all cases sharply downplayed the number of rapes.
A sea and an ocean away, there was the even more appalling finding that New Orleans police didn’t even bother to investigate hundreds of rape cases, or simply classified the reported sexual assaults as “noncriminal” and did no investigation. New Orleans or Britain was no anomaly. Months before the Cosby rape revelation, the Iowa Law Review, in March, found that rape is routinely underreported in dozens of cities. The rape claims were dismissed out of hand with little or no investigation. The result was there were no report, no statistical count, and no record of an attack. The study zeroed in on the prime reason for this, namely disbelief. It’s that disbelief that shields, many men, especially rich, powerful, Olympian like celebrity icons such as Cosby from legal harm. They are reflexively believed when they scream foul at their accuser. They lambaste them as liars, cheats, and gold diggers, or ridicule and demean them as sluts. If things get too hot, they toss out a few dollars in hush money settlements and the screams are even louder that it was all a shakedown operation in the first place and the victim is further demonized
It’s not just the warped and tainted blame the victim syndrome. Countless studies of rape victimization have shown that the attacker is not a stereotypical weird, ticking time bomb pervert. He could be anyone from the helpful, adorable boy next door to a wealthy, staid, respectable pillar of the community with a loving family. When they are accused of rape the gasp of disbelief ripple not only through the perpetrator’s family, but friends, associates, law enforcement and the courts.
Cosby is the classic textbook example of how men who are alleged to commit rape routinely get away with it. Contrary to the non-stop slanders of his accusers, some did go to the police, attorneys, and their agents at the time he allegedly victimized them. But they quickly ran up against the wall of suspicion, indifference, and flat out contempt and blame. Decades later when they again came forth little had changed. They have been hit with the same wall of suspicion, ridicule, snickers, and even wisecracks about their motives and morals.
Despite their claims and the mild scorn heaped on Cosby, he still has his battery of high priced attorneys, agents, and influential entertainment pals who will shill, bully, and subtly play on the sympathy, and his persona and goodwill as America’s perfect Dad, a philanthropist, and the consummate all around good guy that he has spent his professional life constructing to hector the critics. Though Cosby has lost TV deals and some concert appearances have dried up or been cancelled at his request, he still has two powerful cards to play. One is time. The decades that have passed since he committed his alleged rapes, work for him since he knows that the odds of him being plopped in a criminal court docket are slim, and memories of a fickle public dim fast. The other, is the jaundiced view of so many that some if not all of the women who scream rape against him are selfish, and greedy schemers who are out to bring down one of America’s authentic idols. That’s why so many without a hint of thought or shame about the women’s lives that he damaged by his alleged heinous acts gave a full throated shout “We love you bill!”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.