WOMEN

The Aftermath Of Bill Cosby's Admission? That's Rape Culture.

Now we know.

In 2005 Bill Cosby admitted, under oath, to drugging several women with the intention of having sex with them. (To be clear, sex without one party's consent, is called rape.) But in the intervening hours since the report first emerged, the realities of rape culture -- its insidiousness and pervasiveness -- have become all the more clear.

Even now, in the wake of the Cosby news, people and media outlets are still using language that simultaneously downplays and sensationalizes what he did. Headlines like, Cosby's "Sex Bombshell" that don't use the word "rape" perpetuate this idea that what this man did was creepy, yet somehow benign. Furthermore, this news is not a bombshell. We've known about Cosby's history of assault since last year. Really, it's been out there -- but ignored -- for at least 10 years.

The fact Cosby's leaked confession holds more weight than the voices of over 40 women who have come out with accusations against him over the years, is horrifying. We needed "proof" before we could believe the victims. Jill Scott came out last night to condemn Cosby after vigorously defending him last year, but added that all she needed was "proof" that he did it -- as if the stories of 40 women from all different walks of life were not enough to suggest that he is rapist.

But the big problem with that:

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is needed in a court of law, but the court of public opinion does not require the same standards. We should be able to decide for ourselves and listen to the stories of Cosby's accusers who have gained nothing by speaking out.

There have been suggestions that Cosby's wealth, his standing in the black community, his celebrity, all allowed him to get away with this for so long. And still, even now, some people suggest that this is some kind of wild conspiracy to bring down a prominent black man. But this isn't strictly about celebrity, or money, or access, or respectability politics -- we should stop looking for one thing to blame. This is about the intersection of all those things, and how, with the addition of sexism and misogyny, they make stories like this a reality.

When Beverly Johnson, a successful, respected entrepreneur and one of the first black supermodels wrote about her own experience of being assaulted by Cosby, her credibility was questioned. Even Johnson, despite her success and social standing, was afraid that her story wouldn't matter.

She wrote: "I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years? Or would they see my open and honest account of being betrayed by one of the country’s most powerful, influential, and beloved entertainers?"

As this story continues to unfold, we must use it as a learning experience. How do we talk about rape? How do we engage with rape victims? How does the law feed into rape culture and the systematic erasure of rape victims' voices? Cosby's legacy and influence is rapidly deteriorating, but what about justice for the victims?

According to RAINN, only 32 percent of rapes are ever reported, and a majority of rape victims wait months or years before feeling safe enough to come forward. The statute of limitations on Cosby's crimes means that the 77-year-old will likely never spend a day in jail for what he's done.

That is rape culture.

Below is a list of women who have come forward with allegations about Cosby, dated to the time that the allegations were made public.

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