The New Yorker magazine’s recent cover photo is of thirty-five women who allege that they were sexually assaulted by actor Bill Cosby over a period of decades. Some of the alleged victims have come forth on their own for years but their claims were hushed up, silenced or diminished.
It wasn’t until thirty-five women reported together that society actually started to pay attention. Why did it take this long and why did it take this many alleged victims before people would listen? We can speculate that it was because the alleged perpetrator is a famous man who had the outward image of a loving TV persona. We can speculate that it was because the alleged perpetrator had many well-known supporters. We can speculate that it was because the alleged perpetrator had a lot of money and could pay good lawyers and media relations people.
Many of the women’s reputations were damaged during the years of allegations, with rumours, gossip and the denigration of their integrity. What is the price that women face when they report sexual assault, particularly when a man of power and wealth is involved?
There are many issues to ponder and they strike at the heart of our society’s view of women, men and sexual assault.
By Lynda Laushway – Consultant to SWOVA