Why Is It So Hard To Believe Victims?

This article was originally published in OPENWIDE back in 2015, and was written by Erica Wallis

It has been about four months now since dozens of women have come forward accusing entertainer Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them, and although the attacks are decades old, the controversy surrounding his innocence is all the rage. The new allegations have launched Cosby to the forefront of national conversation, inspiring an exhaustive collection of articles that is eager to examine the story. All of them seem to have the same purpose: to figure the truth out.

While it is understandable that people want to see real proof before pointing fingers, this hesitation to jump to conclusions is not only pointless, but downright disrespectful to the victims of the attacks. The truth is that any search for hard evidence of these assaults is long gone. There will be no criminal investigation into the offenses, and there will be nothing that will hold Cosby legally accountable for his actions. Like so many perpetrators of sexual assault, he will face no consequences for his actions. In all likelihood, the only thing that would convince Cosby’s steadfast fans to turn against him would be an actual admission of guilt from the man himself, which is something that he determinedly refuses to give.

While this sobering lack of accountability may seem outrageous to many people, those who have been through similar situations of assault may find this reality far too familiar.  As only six of every one hundred cases of rape are ever even reported, and fewer still are taken to court, the majority of rapists walk free. With one in four North American women being sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, having open discussions about rape culture is crucial.

Instead of asking whether Cosby is innocent, there are far more critical and wider-reaching questions that need to be asked of our society, the most obvious one being; why do the first-hand accounts of almost thirty different victims of Cosby’s actions not qualify as hard evidence? As Jay Leno asked during his January 21st show, “why is it so hard for us to believe women?”

“Rape culture” is a term that many seem unfamiliar with, so here is a breakdown of its most basic manifestations. Rape culture involves the tendency to blame the victim for their own assault, and asking ‘what they were wearing’ or ‘how much they were drinking’. Rape culture includes angry students complaining about getting ‘raped’ by a tough exam. Rape culture is evident in studies that find that one in three college men will consider ‘forcing sexual intercourse if no one found out”, admitting to the very definition of rape as long as the word is not used. And most importantly to the Cosby case, rape culture is the tendency to take the side of the perpetrator over the side of the victim, especially if the accused is a celebrity.

It is understandable that it can be difficult for people to come to terms with the revelation that their idol, especially a father-figure type like Cosby, could be a bad person. But fans’ blind loyalty to their idols needs to stop, especially when the same scenario keeps happening again and again. There is no shortage of celebrities who have been accused of rape and sexual assault and have not faced any consequences, protected as they are by their shining public image and determined fans who continue to excuse the most heinous of crimes.

The consequences of living in a society that so unwaveringly protects rapists are far-reaching and never-ending. Rape does not occur in dark alleys by strangers, as many people seem to think. 80% of rape and sexual assaults happen in the home, by people the victims know. It is high time to recognize the horror that too many people are put through. And above all, it is time to start believing the victims.

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