Re-Victimized for Speaking Out: The Repercussions of Rape

Rapist Bill Cosby 2By Susan Ha

In a world where Americans try to preach the equality of men and women and the rights that each of us have as citizens, comedian Bill Cosby manipulated his way and lied to the public against accusations from women who claim that he drugged them, and either sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped them. When the first several women came out, the public, including celebrities, appallingly ridiculed them and accused them of being money hungry, fame hungry, or both. Some even had the audacity to ask why these women could not speak up earlier and report it to the police if it was in fact true. Why have they been judged, ridiculed, and victimized for speaking out about their horrendous experiences with the vile comedian, who tried to paint a completely different, wholesome picture of himself to the world? This type of reaction is far too common, especially when the sexual predator is famous or a very prominent person in the community.

Cosby committed serious acts of crime and defiled his unwilling victims’ bodies, most of them while they were unconscious, and they rightfully deserve justice. Victims of rape should not have to face re-victimization for speaking out about unforgettable and horrific sexual acts being forced upon them. America needs to be educated about these types of crimes and how to correctly deal with victims, having compassion and helping them heal instead of causing more detriment and harm to them. The current mindset and culture of shunning, ridiculing, and silencing innocent victims, especially women, needs to be put to an end once and for all.

Bill Cosby is in the spotlight once again, by three women who have recently come forward, joining the nearly 50 women, ranging in age from early 20’s to 80, who have accused him of drugging them, and either sexually assaulting or sexually harassing them within a span of 40 years. The New York Magazine did a spread in July 2015, where 35 of the victims were pictured sitting on chairs, along with the picture of an empty chair for those who still haven’t come forward. It was a very touching and heartfelt moment to see the victims gathering their strength and courage by standing together and speaking out in numbers. The three women who recently came forward are Eden Tiri, an actress who appeared on The Cosby Show, Linda Ridgeway Whitedeer, the ex-wife of a William Morris Agency vice president, and Colleen Hughes, who was a young stewardess with American Airlines in the early 70’s.

Some of Cosby’s famous victims include: model Jewel Allison, actress Lili Bernard, former The Cosby Show actress Helen Bumpel, world’s first supermodel Janice Dickinson, Carla Ferrigno, wife and manager of Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno, model Chloe Goins, actress Michelle Hurd, model Beverly Johnson, writer Sammie Mays, actress Kathy McKee, actress Louisa Moritz, and former Playmate Victoria Valentino. Their names have been mentioned to show the extent of Cosby’s heinous crimes, and also because they already have money and fame and have nothing to gain from all of this. Famed civil rights attorney Gloria Allred is representing more than 21 of the women who came forward with their stories. She stated that they are now speaking out to show support in numbers, due to the criticism the accusers were receiving from Cosby’s attorneys and the public.

Cosby still had his loyal followers during this time, including actress Whoopi Goldberg and singer Jill Scott, who defended him until a 2005 – 2006 deposition was recently made public. He also lost endorsements and projects from companies like NBC, Netflix, Kraft Foods, the maker of Jell-O Pudding, TV Land stopped playing The Cosby Show reruns, tour dates were canceled, and several blurb endorsements by celebrities, including Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Wynton Marsalis, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jerry Seinfeld, were removed by request from Mark Whitaker’s “Cosby: His Life and Times”. Only when male, stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress put the spotlight on the situation, calling Cosby a rapist, and nearly 50 women accused Cosby of these atrocious acts, did it cause calamity to Cosby’s reputation. Why in the world did it take so long?

Even after the significant number of victims speaking out, one of Cosby’s attorneys, Marty Singer, criticized that the claims “about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous.” More importantly, Cosby admitted during a 2005 – 2006 deposition oath brought by former Temple University basketball coach Andrea Constand, that he gave women Quaaludes, a sedative in the 1970’s and 1980’s which can “render a person functionally immobile,” when he wanted to have sex with them. In Cosby’s deposition, he believed that his behavior did not constitute rape, and he had the audacity to state, “I think that I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them.” This is the delusional mindset of a serial rapist. He has since settled Ms. Constand’s case. However, Cosby will be under deposition again on October 9, 2015, regarding an accusation by California plaintiff Judy Huth, who says that he molested her and forced her to perform a sex act at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was only 15 years old. Thankfully, the statute of limitations in California is extended for adults who claim that they were sexually abused when they were children. However, due to the statute of limitations in other states, only a few of Cosby’s victims are able to take him to court.

In Cosby’s 1999 book titled Congratulations! Now What?, he jokes how lucky readers are to have graduated, no longer having to deal with “campus sex police.” Also, in the chapter “No More Pre-Caressing Agreements,” Cosby says that it is very silly for men to need permission to have sexual relations with attractive women. This really shows how powerful Cosby sees himself to be. It also shows the horrifying mindset that he shares with many other sexual predators: their disillusioned views about how little a woman’s worth is, and that a woman is supposed to submit to their sexual desires with no questions asked. Anyone who read this book should have immediately realized the monster that he is and condemn him.

The victims’ stories are almost all the same: Bill Cosby invited the women, some who were actresses trying out for parts and some who were only teenagers at the time, to a location in which he usually drugged, then either sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped them. Almost all of the vile attacks happened when the victims were unconscious from the effects of the Quaaludes given to them by Cosby, either as herbal pills, menstrual cramp reliever pills, cold and flu pills, or slipped into their drinks. Many of the women woke up confused and with semen all over them. Cosby even had the audacity to threaten some of his outraged victims by saying that no one would believe them, so why would they speak up.

According to Hope for Healing, rape is a “crime of power, control, and extreme violence where sex is used as a weapon against someone weaker.” In the 1960’s, rape was considered a violent crime committed by strangers, and women didn’t register acquaintance rape. However, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, campus movements like Take Back the Night and “No Means No,” helped raise the public awareness that 80 – 90% of victims know their attacker. Sadly, this didn’t prevent women from being silent or feeling ashamed, especially when their attackers had any kind of status. The public scrutinized them and accused them of being after money or attention. Times have changed, because younger women and people on social media feel that “there is a strong sense now that speaking up is the only thing to do, that a woman claiming her own victimhood is more powerful than any other weapon in the fight against rape.”

Alarmingly, according to the National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted (2.8%) or completed rape (14.8%) in her lifetime, which equals 17.7 million American women. In 2003, 90% of rape victims were female. Victims of rape may suffer from psychological, emotional, and physical effects, which include: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), self-harm, flashbacks, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), depression, and substance use. Other psychological symptoms include: increased fear and anxiety, self-blame and guilt, helplessness, humiliation and shame, lowering of self-esteem, feeling dirty or contaminated, anger, feeling alone, losing hope, emotional numbness, nightmares, and suicidal feelings. About half of all women who have been raped experience these long-term effects. Rape victims are also more likely to “experience long-lasting mental and physical problems – and here, long-term can mean a lifetime of torment.” In a study done on World War II survivors by German researchers, “Women exposed to conflict-related sexual violence reported greater severity of PTSD-related avoidance and hyperarousal symptoms, as well as anxiety, compared with female long-term survivors of non-sexual WWII trauma.”

In addition, the Department of Justice reported that about two-thirds, or 73%, of rapes are committed by someone that the victim knows, including co-workers, dates, or friends. To be more specific, 38% of rapists are either a friend or an acquaintance, 28% are an intimate partner, and 7% are relatives. Many women feel shame, stigma, fear of not being believed, fear of being hounded, and a desire to get rid of the pain. They also worry about what their family and friends will think, along with “ruining” the rapist’s life, which is usually someone they know. Many victims are also shunned and silenced by communities and the public, especially if the rapist is someone famous or prominent and has access to a team of attorneys to defend him. Some women who are raped by someone they trusted are especially devastated, because they feel that they can’t trust their own judgment. Victims, especially those in college, know that reporting rape “comes with a social risk, especially when the perpetrator is someone they know.” Colby Bruno, Senior Legal Counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center, who represents victims of sexual violence in civil matters, with particular expertise in representing college students, stated, “I’ve seen this in every single case. The victim lose[s] friends or becomes a social pariah. If you report on a really small campus, it’s really difficult to re-integrate after you report.”

What’s shocking is that women sometimes don’t have disturbing feelings or thoughts until days, weeks, months, or even years later. Scott Berkowitz, the founder and president of the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), said that the most common reason victims gave years ago for not reporting rape was: “I think I won’t be believed. I think I will be blamed.” He goes on to say that now, the most common reason is: “I want to keep this private. I don’t want people to know. I’m embarrassed.” In a 2007 study of college rape victims, 42% of physically forced victims “did not want anyone to know.” In addition, RAINN states that currently, “only 8% of rapes are brought to trial, and perpetrators are found guilty about 4% of the time.”

When a woman gets raped and keeps silent about it, the public, including most men, are surprised and argue, “If she was really RAPED, why didn’t she go to the police and report it THEN?” In agreement with this mindset, Actress Brenda Vaccaro criticized Cosby’s accusers, claiming, “I would never take a pill. All 45 of them took a pill? I just think it’s very bizarre and I think that they waited so long that it’s almost a disgrace about women and their inability to fight for themselves…I wouldn’t have put up with it. I would have reported it to the police immediately.” Surprisingly, this is coming from a 75-year-old actress, who lived in an era in which women who reported these types of crimes were truly looked down upon and ridiculed, especially if their attacker was someone famous or powerful. To add to the victims’ detriment, Bill Cosby was a beloved comedy icon in the world, best known for his role as Heathcliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show, and also for his Jell-O Pudding commercials. He also had friends in very high places, including Hugh Heffner, who could significantly influence the silencing of Cosby’s victims. One of his accusers, Barbara Bowman, defends the reason why she did not come forward in 1986: “Who’s gonna believe this? He was a powerful man. He was like the president.” Many of them also felt alone and didn’t know that there were other victims out there.

Many years ago, sexual harassment was not considered a crime, and only in 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that “sexual harassment can be sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII.” A blogger named Elfity stated, “In today’s rape culture, it’s almost as dangerous to speak out as it is to keep quiet.” She then criticized, “Our culture routinely and systematically silences survivors, victims, activist[s], anyone who dares challenge the dominant rape narrative.” The cultural reaction to rape – from communities, police departments, medical personnel, and the aggressors themselves – can “significantly affect how well a victim recovers, the length of the recovery period, and if he or she develops PTSD.” A 2004 study which showed the effects of secondary victimization, or “victim-blaming behaviors and practices engaged in by legal and medical personnel, which exacerbates victims’ trauma,” most women said they felt “guilty, ashamed, depressed, anxious, distrustful, and most disturbingly, ‘reluctant to seek further help’ after reporting rapes.” Philipp Kuwert of University Medicine Greifswald at the HELIOS Hansehospital Stralsund in Germany, stated, “Social acknowledgement is one of the most important healing effects – a society has to acknowledge that this suffering happened, and has to give the people some kind of symbol of that.”

There have been numerous examples of incidents that have happened in the news lately. Recently, there have been horrifying rape and rape reactions cases which shocked the horrified public. In 2012, two Steubenville high school football players raped a teenage girl who was passed out at a party, while taking pictures and circulating them. One of them got reinstated to the football team, which caused a petition with 76,000 signatures demanding for him to be removed. Alexandria Goddard, a social media consultant who helped generate attention to the original case, stated, “’The message that it sends is that Steubenville High School doesn’t care about rape,’ [and that] the district has failed to say specifically what steps it has taken toward ‘addressing the issue of rape culture.’” However, Council member Kenneth Davis defended the school’s decision by saying, “Who are we to condemn this young man, when he stood up publicly with tears in his eyes and apologized?” He then added, “I’m not taking what he did lightly, but he was 16…Football gives you structure in your life…If I didn’t have football in my life as a kid, I could be a street hoodlum myself.”

What message does this give to the public? That football is far more important to the community than a teenaged girl who was violently taken advantage of and is now scarred for life? The boy’s tears were probably out of fear of not being able to play football and going to prison for his atrocious crime. Maia Christopher, executive director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers states, “Integrating juvenile offenders back into the community ‘and providing structured support’ that fosters their continued development is important.” However, she goes on to argue, “But it’s also important for the needs of the victim and the community to be weighed.”

In another example, on April 2014, 23 Columbia and Barnard students filed a federal Title IX complaint against the universities for mishandling sexual assault cases. Emma Sulkowicz, one of the complainants, stated that she and two other females reported their attacker, Paul Nungesser, to the university, but that all three cases were dismissed. It is very appalling to hear that a supposedly mature adult on the panelist had the audacity to ask Emma to explain how it was physically possible for anal rape to happen, causing her to feel extremely embarrassed and awkward. She has now since used protest art to protest against the undignified dismissal, including hauling around a mattress until her attacker leaves campus.

However, the most horrifying story was when then 14-year-old Daisy Coleman, was raped by popular Maryville High School football player, 17-year-old Matthew Barnett, on January 8, 2012. Matthew gave Daisy alcohol and then raped her while she was unconscious at his house. He and his friends dropped her off on her freezing doorstop, and she was found hours later with frozen hair. What is shocking is that Daisy was read her Miranda rights, which is “highly unusual” and “unheard of,” and most likely to “intimidate” her. Matthew was arrested and charged, but they were later dropped by Prosecutor Robert Rice, and some accuse Matthew’s grandfather, Rex Barnett, a former four-term Missouri House of Representatives member, of influencing the decision. Daisy and her family were constantly harassed, including people telling Daisy that she had been “asking for it,” and obscene comments from people on social media telling her to end her life. Daisy struggled with depression and tried to commit suicide twice, but is now in therapy after they moved. What is shocking is that in April, their empty and for sale Maryville home was suspiciously burned down, but fire officials have never determined what caused it.

Angie Blumel, director of advocacy services with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, criticized, “Intimidation of victims creates an environment in which victims feel they are being held responsible for the crime.” She goes on to say, “When this occurs, it is not uncommon for victims to decide they no longer feel safe to continue participating in the criminal justice process. This is a huge disservice not only to the victim, but also the community.” There have been many instances in which victims of rape who spoke out were turned against by an entire community, especially when accusations were made against a team, school, or organization.

Rape is a horrific, vile, immoral, and violent sexual act forced upon an unwilling victim. It is an extremely traumatizing act of an attacker violently defiling someone else to please oneself. It is usually done by men to women, who are much weaker and cannot fight back. The repercussions are so severe, that it was found to have more serious effects than people who suffered through war. Victims of rape may suffer from psychological, emotional, and physical effects, sometimes even for the rest of their lives. No matter what a rape victim tries to do to live past the horrors, it will never be forgotten. There are many reasons why victims may not speak out, including feelings of shame, stigma, fear of not being believed, fear of being hounded, worrying about what their family and friends will think, along with worrying about “ruining” the rapist’s life, which is usually someone they know. When victims do have the courage to speak out against their attackers, they should not be judged, ridiculed, or silenced. The shunning and silencing of innocent victims in America who seek justice is cruel, harmful, immoral, and needs to be stopped. When a victim gets bullied for speaking out, it should be considered a crime, because many of these women are battling depression and may become suicidal, if they are not already. People need to realize how their actions deeply affect those who have been raped, and understand that women should be helped instead of being re-victimized for speaking out. People need to have compassion for victims and not their attackers, no matter how famous, powerful, or admired they are.

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