ABOVE PHOTO: Bill Cosby (Randy Miramontez/shutterstock.com)
By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
There really shouldn’t have been much doubt that disgraced comedian Bill Cosby eventually would be charged in court with a sex related misconduct offense at some point in time.
In the much discussed unsealed deposition Cosby gave in 2005, he confessed to giving drugs to one woman and getting drugs for other women he wanted to have sex with. This was tantamount to a smoking gun confirmation of what many of his alleged victims claimed: he plied them with drink and drugs before he sexually waylaid them. It was also a numbers game. There were just too many alleged victims who said that Cosby, take your pick: drugged, fondled, molested, abused, intimidated, and of course, raped them over the course of many years.
Cosby loudly protested his innocence and even filed defamation of character countersuits against some of the alleged victims. Meanwhile, legions of legal experts took it as a virtual article of faith that there were no legal grounds to prosecute him because the statute of limitations had long since run out on most of the claims. Cosby and they were wrong. They either misread the rape laws in those states or simply assumed like so many others that a sexual abuser could get away with the crime simply by waiting out the calendar.
More than two dozen states have no statute of limitation depending on circumstances in the nature and type of sexual assault. If the evidence was compelling a Cosby could indeed be prosecuted even decades after the assault in those states.
This gross misconception about prosecuting sexual crimes implanted the dangerous public notion that rape or sexual abuse could be minimalized, marginalized or even mocked because the clock had wound down on when the crime could or even should be prosecuted. A Cosby prosecution rightly tosses the ugly glare back on the wrong public perceptions about rape and sexual abuse and how easily the crime can still be blown off.
But it also casts light on two other deeply troubling questions. One is why Cosby’s alleged victims kept silent for so long. Cosby and his apologists endlessly used this ploy to trash his women accusers. This was a straw man argument if ever there was one.
The Iowa Law Review, in March, 2014, gave an answer. It found that rape is routinely underreported in dozens of cities. The rape claims were dismissed out of hand with little or no investigation. The result was there were no report, no statistical count, and no record of an attack.
The study zeroed in on the prime reason for this, namely disbelief. It’s that disbelief that assures that men such as Cosby are reflexively believed when they scream foul at their accuser. They lambaste them as liars, cheats, and gold diggers, or ridicule and demean them as sluts. If things get too hot, they toss out a few dollars in hush money settlements and the screams are even louder that it was all a shakedown operation in the first place and the victim is further demonized.
Cosby is the classic textbook example of how men who are alleged to commit rape routinely get away with it. Contrary to the non-stop slanders of his supporters, some did go to the police, attorneys, and their agents at the time he allegedly victimized them, but they quickly ran up against a wall of suspicion, indifference, and flat-out contempt and blame. Decades later, little has changed. They have been hit with the same wall of suspicion, ridicule, snickers, and even wisecracks about their motives and morals.
This wasn’t the only reason it took so long to prosecute Cosby. He wasn’t just another rich, mediagenic celebrity whose wealth, fame and celebrity status routinely shielded him from criminal charges. Or the rare times someone like him winds up in a criminal court he can hire the best of the best legal guns to skip away scot free or get a hand slap punishment.
Cosby was a special case even by the standards of the rich and famed celebrity world. For a decade he reigned as America’s father figure; not black father figure, but father figure. He embodied the myths, fantasies, and beliefs about the role that a caring, loving, engaged dad is supposed to have with his family. This rendered him almost an untouchable when it came to casting any dispersions on his character.
He cemented his Olympian perch when he went on the circuit used his iconic status to rant, rail and lecture blacks on their alleged slack, derelict, slovenly morals, criminality and educational torpor for months. For that conservatives and the family values crowd hoisted him to their honor roll of heroes for supposedly having the guts to defy the civil rights and liberal PC crowd on race.
Cosby’s rude fall from grace and the rape prosecution at the center of it will change much of that. It’s a change that’s long overdue.
To read the Marshall Project’s “Overlooking Rape” report, go to https://www.themarshallproject.org/2014/11/20/overlooking-rape#.u2yoLPfp2.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is “Trump and the GOP: Race Baiting to the White House” (Amazon Kindle). Hutchinson is a frequent MSNBC contributor and an associate editor with New America Media. He is also the weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network