New revelations have proven what many of us had already concluded: that Bill Cosby is a serial sexual abuser. The revelations do not come from more victims coming forward but from Cosby himself – contained within a sworn deposition from a civil suit settled nearly a decade ago. In it Cosby admits to obtaining Quaaludes – a potent tranquilizer – in order to drug young women and have sex with them. Many people are calling for criminal prosecutions and jail time – though that seems unlikely. Most of the cases are too old – past the statute of limitations – to be prosecuted. And for a criminal charge to stick, a general statement has to be shown to be a specific act, that is, in this particular case, it has to be proven that he used drugs to overcome a specific woman and have non-consensual sex. Not impossible but not certain either.
Certainly, there will be consequences for Mr. Cosby. His income will drop as people stop going to his shows or as promoters stop booking him. He may also wind up in more civil suits that will eat into his considerable fortune. Certainly his position as a moral leader in America will be radically reduced or eliminated.
That elevated position was the reason the judge unlocked the sealed files in this case. You can’t go around preaching to others how to live their lives – especially when it comes to sexual or family morality – and expect your own indiscretions to remain private. Think of the cases of Jim Bakker and other failed evangelicals or of homophobic politicians caught picking up men in bathrooms. They were outed and many of us took delight in their downfall. Everyone likes a fallen angel.
However painful the revelations are for Cosby’s family and his many fans, there may be some positive outcomes for society if not for his individual victims. Perhaps the next time a celebrity or the guy down the block is accused of sexual crimes, the public and the media will be less likely to shame the victim and more likely to look closely at the behavior of the accused.
Not every accusation is true but no crime is treated as ‘untrue’ as often as that of rape or sexual assault. People accused of break and enter are seriously investigated – no one suggests the homeowner deserved what happened or encouraged it. There is no guarantee that things will improve – similar high profile incidents haven’t destroyed rape culture and I expect we will continue to hear stories of men in positions of authority using their power to abuse women (or men) they come in contact with and control.
And that is what it is in so many cases: the desire to control. After all, a man with Cosby’s wealth, profile and sense of humour probably could have found many willing partners. Yet, it seems, he preferred his women unconscious and unable to express any part of their own personality. If that’s not a symptom of something darker I can’t think what is.
And that’s ten minutes.