How the Cosby Case Reaffirms the Existence of Rape Culture

June 19, 2017

 Photo: Fox News


This week, seven men and five women served on a jury, but they failed to serve justice.


Declaring themselves “hopelessly deadlocked” after six days of deliberation on the high-profile sexual assault case against actor and comedian Bill Cosby, the judge called a mistrial.


Cosby’s team cites a lack of evidence; however, the allegations of nearly 50 women and the defensive actions by the perpetrator amid a society stained by rape culture should amount to more than enough.


The scandal began in January 2005 when Andrea Constand, director of operations for the Temple University women’s basketball team, filed a police report outside of her hometown of Toronto. Her claim that Cosby sexually assaulted her the year before made its way to the comic’s attorney in Manhattan, where Cosby maintained that the encounter was consensual.


 Photo: NBC News 


Another accuser, Beth Ferrier, had a story similar to Constand’s. She alleged that the comedian drugged her coffee and sexually assaulted her, and she had told the story to The National Enquirer. When Cosby found out, he acted quickly to cover it up by offering an exclusive interview to the publication on the grounds that they cancel Ferrier’s story. Cosby later admitted not only to silencing Ferrier, but also to giving women drugs for sex and paying off multiple women -- which he later retracted when NBC’s Frank Scotti admitted to sending the money to the women on Cosby’s behalf.


A week later, the district attorney Constand spoke with announced that he would not persecute Cosby. Constand filed her own civil lawsuit, backed by 13 other accusations of sexual assault from women willing to testify. The judge allowed only one woman a chance to speak.


Cosby admitted to sexual encounters with several accusers, including Constand, but insisted that they were consensual. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum.

In 2014, bad press, a sullied reputation, and a string of new accusations from other women empowered by Constand’s bravery resurrected the case and challenged Cosby’s lack of true consequences. Close to 50 women came forward after Constand set the precedent, but Cosby has yet to be charged with a single crime.

Make no mistake: this is not justice but rape culture at its finest.


 Photo: Emily Rose Thorne 


During the revitalized 2017 case, Cosby’s lawyer, Brian McMonagle, espoused the common anthems of rape culture such as that women often report false cases due to unwillingness to admit “responsibility” in sexual encounters or for putting themselves in a situation where someone may take advantage of them. In reality, only 2-10 percent of reported cases are falsified. What’s more, an estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults never even make it to court due to the trauma and fear victims experience when recounting their story or even when considering how the courts and society will distort their stories and relentlessly blame them based on unrelated factors.


The victim-blaming didn’t end there; McMonagle asserted that the women should have expected that Cosby wanted sex from them, implying that a woman’s bodily autonomy does not compare in importance to a man’s sexual desires—especially when the man is question is rich, famous, and powerful.

The defense seems aware of the weakness of their arguments, as they “vigorously opposed” allowing any of the 13 victims to testify. While it’s true that all but one of the women’s cases had exceeded the statute of limitations, prosecutors argued that their stories established a pattern in Cosby’s behavior that gave claims of sexual assault more credibility.


Cosby himself refused to testify, presumably to avoid persistent cross-examination that may have dissolved the charming persona that has kept him afloat thus far.

We can’t continue to allow rich, powerful men a pass on violence against women. Not when 1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Not when 1 in 5 women report being raped. Not when violence against women is a worldwide problem with social, physical, mental, and economic consequences.


Not now, not ever.


Emily Rose is 17 years old and from Athens, Georgia. Beginning in fall 2017, she will attend Mercer University. She plans to double major in Journalism and Political Science and to minor in Global Development Studies. She is a writer, musician, activist, and feminist who hopes to use her platforms to inspire positive change by providing different perspectives on the world’s political and social issues.

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