Washington, D.C. – As the number of sexual abuse allegations against Bill Cosby continues to rise, we are again painfully reminded that we live in a reality of rape culture. For many who have studied sexual assault and violence against women, the trajectory of these allegations comes as no surprise. Rape culture supports rapists, while discrediting and silencing survivors – particularly when significant power imbalances are involved. The Bill Cosby allegations are endemic to such a culture, and are just one of many examples.
Survivors of rape continuously face disbelief, blame, and silence when they attempt to share their stories. The cases that have unfolded around Bill Cosby are no different. Since the first accusations arose in the early 2000s, these 13+ women have been ignored, shamed, interrogated, and silenced. It is therefore not surprising that AP initially “scuttled” questions regarding the allegations in a recent interview, per Cosby’s request. It is also not surprising that the alleged abuses are just now coming to light. Rape culture systematically suppresses the voices and will power of victims and survivors, shaming and blaming the victim while supporting the perpetrator to commit abuse after abuse, consequence-free.
As a society, we need to hold accountable all perpetrators of sexual violence – including those with celebrity status – and believe the stories of victims and survivors. While we have made small strides over the years towards shifting rape culture through legislation like California’s recently passed “Yes Means Yes” law, and President Obama’s “It’s On Us” campaign, we have much further to go, both as a country and as a culture. We must continue to work to provide support for victims and survivors of sexual assault, seek justice for the crimes committed against them and work through education and prevention efforts to combat the problem of sexual violence and dismantle rape culture.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault and needs help, please call National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).