**WARNING**Possibly triggering material (abuse/sexual assault)**WARNING**
A gentleman I know recently wrote an Opinion piece in the local newspaper back home in Huntington, WV. The column is entitled Is Cosby a Victim of Questionable Accusations?
I was stunned and hurt by what he wrote. I have blogged about my own struggles with sexual assault and how abuse in general results in psychological issues that can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Individuals who are truly informed about sexual abuse can be empathetic, yet it is distant to the understanding from someone who has survived it.
Someone in the mall looks a little too similar for your comfort, so you avoid going into the store to buy those shoes you need.
Your boss says something to you, and your skin prickles, heart races, breath shallow, palms sweaty. You just need to get away as soon as possible.
A co-worker makes an inappropriate joke, and suddenly you feel that phantom hand caressing you there.
A stranger compliments your appearance, and your defenses go up, waiting for when he will make his move.
Your lover touches you a certain way, and you cry and push to get away.
These things are similar to what survivors experience for years after the abuse; many times they experience it for the rest of their lives.
Yet we should expect them to report it right away? Sometimes it feels safer to hide from it as much as possible. When your subconscious forces you to relive feelings and responses in the most mundane activities in life, it becomes a blessing not to have to consciously think or talk about it. Survivors who report the abuse – regardless if it’s right after or years after – demonstrate a level of mental courage that many people cannot fathom. Hell, it takes an insurmountable amount of strength to live with this on a daily basis, regardless of whether the crime is reported (RAINN statistics suggest that more than 50% of survivors never report the abuse).
For Cosby, it’s unlikely that any criminal proceedings will occur because of the statute of limitations. To me, it’s an error in awareness to think that his accusers have suddenly come out of the woodwork. Cosby settled on similar allegations in 2006. They didn’t just come out of the woodwork – the murmurings of such despicable behavior have been around for years.
I was stunned and hurt by what he wrote. Unfortunately, I wasn’t stunned that someone would have these views. The knee-jerk reaction to distrust the accusers is an internalized by-product of the rape culture, even by people who are meaning to do well (“because Bill Cosby, in my wildest imagination, would never have had any reason to behave so irresponsibly and criminally”).
I was stunned because it came from someone that I thought cared about me and my experience. Given his responses to the comments people have made, I have to question just how aware that caring is.
Bless the survivors – those who report, and those who don’t.
If you’re a survivor or someone who wants to learn more to support the survivors in your life, you can find a wealth of information and resources at RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.