If there is one place I had prayed we would not see partisanship rear its head, it is in connection with the Bill Cosby sexual assault scandal. But disgustingly, it has happened.
Last week we heard Glenn Beck say Cosby was “raped” by the AP reporter who revealed a clip of Cosby addressing the sexual assault allegations. Beck clearly has no idea what rape means when he can equate that horrible act with the AP reporter’s actions.
Rush Limbaugh responded to the extensive media coverage of Cosby’s female accusers by asserting that the only reason CNN was reporting the story was that Cosby had “ticked off” CNN producers by saying that black people need to “start accepting responsibility.”
And then over the weekend we saw even more partisanship when comedian Faizon Love, who is black, went on a Twitter rant defending Cosby. Love’s outburst, which became Twitter’s top trending topic on Saturday, included tweets like: “I’m gonna say it because Mr.Cosby can’t… Fuck them bitches and they mamas too!!!”
Love even lashed out at other blacks who were criticizing Cosby: “Everytime one of these funky bitches say rape, you house niggers jump on the bandwagon, you mamas and daddys been raped for 400 years.”
I even witnessed a small dose of this partisanship after I appeared Sunday morning on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry show, where I made it clear that I believe the accusers over Cosby. My Twitter feed was quickly littered with tweets defending Cosby.
Now just to be clear, when I say the Cosby scandal has become partisan, I don’t mean conservative versus liberal nor Republican versus Democrat. While Beck and Limbaugh are clearly conservatives, I doubt Love is, nor are all the others defending Cosby.
The group that these partisans defending Cosby belong to is not based on political ideology, but rather based on gender. They are all men. Remarkably, defending Cosby has united men of different races and political leanings that I doubt would agree on many other issues.
Yes, I know Whoopi Goldberg made comments last week that were viewed as defending Cosby. However, her point was not that Cosby is 100 percent innocent, but rather, as she stated on “The View, “I hope somebody gets to the bottom of this, but I’m going to reserve my judgment because I have a lot of questions.”
Questions are fair. But discounting the allegations of more than 1o women who have relayed similar stories of how Cosby assaulted them flies in the face of common sense. And demonizing the women leveling these charges is despicable.
Perhaps my outrage at the men defending Cosby springs from my own feelings of guilt. When I first heard about the sexual misconduct clams by three women against Cosby in 2006, I didn’t care. If I had, I would’ve at the very least begun to see Cosby differently. Instead, being a fan of Cosby’s comedy, I subconsciously sided with him by not engaging on the issue in any way. But my silence was not only wrong; I am complicit on some level in nurturing the “rape culture” that we see today in our country.
It’s responses like mine—which are far more common among men than the Limbaugh, Beck, or Love type—that contribute to a climate in which women don’t want to come forward to report being sexually assaulted for fear they won’t be believed. They see how other women who have had the courage to report these attacks have been dismissed, or worse, demonized. We have all seen rape victims be slut-shamed, called gold diggers or accused of being at fault because they went to a hotel room or didn’t fight back enough.
How does this play it as a practical matter? Well estimates are that 60 percent of women will not report being sexually assaulted to the authorities. This clearly contributes to the fact that more than 95 percent of men charged as rapists do not spend one day in jail. Not one single day!
Here’s the stark reality: Sexual assault in our country is at epidemic levels. By the time you read this article, it’s likely another woman will be sexually assaulted, because it occurs every two minutes.
However, how often do you hear about these cases in the media? Unless a celebrity is involved, almost never. That, too, contributes to a sense that the suffering of these women just doesn’t matter that much.
What will happen to Cosby now? Well, it’s unlikely that there will be any criminal charges against him due to statute of limitations and evidentiary problems. But in the court of public opinion, Cosby has clearly been found guilty by millions. To this group of people (in which I’m included), we no longer view Cosby as a groundbreaking comedian, but as a serial rapist.
But the bigger and far more important question is: how in the future will we men respond to women who tell us that they have been sexually assaulted? Will we be indifferent? Will we demonize them?
Or will we view their claims as if they were made by our own sister, daughter, or other loved one? We should, because statistically, it’s likely one of them will be subject to sexual violence. And every woman, relative or not, deserves to be treated better than the way so many of us, including myself, treated the women who courageously came forward in the past to report that Cosby had sexually assaulted them.