I was surprised to hear today that Bill Cosby was arrested and charged in relation to a 2004 sexual assault allegation. The man had long seemed immune to legal consequences despite persistent outcries from victims going back at least 30 years.
This past summer, New York Magazine ran a feature in which 35 women related stories of their own encounters with Cosby. That just one of those women–the same woman who has been pursuing her case tirelessly since 2004. Andrea Constand tried to have him charged at the time, but prosecutors refused to do so. Interestingly, per the Washington Post article linked above:
Legal experts said prosecuting the case will be challenging because of the passage of time. But prosecutors could persuade the judge to allow evidence of similar allegations made against Cosby by women from across the country to become part of their case in Philadelphia.
“The passage of time might have had a net positive result for the prosecutors,” said Barry Coburn, a former federal prosecutor who now works as a criminal and civil defense lawyer.
Under rules of evidence in Pennsylvania, prosecutors can introduce allegations brought by the other women if those allegations establish a mode of operation or pattern of behavior by Cosby. While a judge could rule against prosecutors, the process of determining whether that evidence is admissible will involve court hearings and never-before-heard testimony from the other alleged victims of the famed comedian and father figure.
Such a strategy, given the number of women who have spoken out against him, promises to be exceptionally damning. Even so, there are no guarantees in these cases–it would be premature to assume a guilty verdict.
Cosby, for his part, is hardly alone in his treatment of women, either in Hollywood or in society at large.
In terms of the behavior of celebrities:
Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist, and he now stars as a loveable cartoon TV detective. Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old and has since won an Oscar to a standing ovation. Sean Connery is the celebrated embodiment of rugged cool, who has openly championed beating women in order to keep ’em in line. Bill Murray has been accused by his ex-wife of repeated, brutal physical abuse. Rick James was arrested for torturing and sexually abusing a woman for three days straight, only to have his image rehabilitated by Dave Chappelle years later. John Lennon is one of the most worshipped artists who has ever drawn breath, and he has copped to battering the shit out of women.
In the United States, an estimated 19.3% of women and 1.7% of men have been raped during their lifetimes; an estimated 1.6% of women reported that they were raped in the 12 months preceding the survey. The case count for men reporting rape in the preceding 12 months was too small to produce a statistically reliable prevalence estimate. An estimated 43.9% of women and 23.4% of men experienced other forms of sexual violence during their lifetimes, including being made to penetrate, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences. The percentages of women and men who experienced these other forms of sexual violence victimization in the 12 months preceding the survey were an estimated 5.5% and 5.1%, respectively.
An estimated 15.2% of women and 5.7% of men have been a victim of stalking during their lifetimes. An estimated 4.2% of women and 2.1% of men were stalked in the 12 months preceding the survey.
The lifetime and 12-month prevalences of rape by an intimate partner for women were an estimated 8.8% and 0.8%, respectively; an estimated 0.5% of men experienced rape by an intimate partner during their lifetimes, although the case count for men reporting rape by an intimate partner in the preceding 12 months was too small to produce a statistically reliable prevalence estimate. An estimated 15.8% of women and 9.5% of men experienced other forms of sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetimes, whereas an estimated 2.1% of both men and women experienced these forms of sexual violence by a partner in the 12 months before taking the survey. Severe physical violence by an intimate partner (including acts such as being hit with something hard, being kicked or beaten, or being burned on purpose) was experienced by an estimated 22.3% of women and 14.0% of men during their lifetimes and by an estimated 2.3% of women and 2.1% of men in the 12 months before taking the survey. Finally, the lifetime and 12-month prevalence of stalking by an intimate partner for women was an estimated 9.2% and 2.4%, respectively, while the lifetime and 12-month prevalence for men was an estimated 2.5% and 0.8%, respectively.
According to RAINN, 97% of rapists receive no punishment at all, even though close to half are reported to police. (Only 12% result in arrest, 9% result in charges, 5% result in convictions, and a mere 3% have actual prison time.)
It is welcome news that Cosby is finally being charged for one of his crimes, but let’s not forget the millions of others who will never see justice. Consider how many years and how much publicity it took for Constand to even get her day in court–after being dismissed for over a decade. In short, Cosby even being arrested, especially after so long, is the rare exception. Rapists and abusers getting away clean is the norm, and this has to change.
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