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Bill Cosby

As the number of accusers coming forward against Bill Cosby continues to grow, some of us seem shocked that someone so revered – a man in the public eye for more than 50 years – could allegedly have been a vicious predator and gotten away with it for so long.

It stuns us whenever a person with a sterling public image is accused of horrible crimes. It shakes our sense of justice when serious allegations against a famous role model are covered up or ignored.

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In Cosby’s case, besides being a beloved entertainer, he has a doctorate in education; co-wrote a book with a respected Harvard professor on the problems of people suffering from low self-esteem, abandonment, fearfulness, sadness, and frustration; and has always been a staunch advocate for strong family and racial relations.

If even one of the many accounts we are hearing is true – and it needs to be emphasized that he denies all the allegations and hasn’t been tried or convicted on any of them – we would be left to wonder how someone so apparently caring, successful, and insightful could be such a miserable individual.

But individuals of prominence are able to get away with predatory behavior precisely because they display different behaviors in different settings. To the world at large they present themselves as sober and sensitive, full of guidance and understanding, while to their victims they reveal a wholly unexpected and even violent side.

Rumors about Cosby began to circulate years ago, to little effect. (In 2005, one alleged victim filed a civil claim against Cosby, who settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. The media paid fleeting attention to the story.) It was not simply that his star was too bright, though that was surely part of it; it was also our collective naiveté about sexual predators. We simply did not want to believe that such things could happen among “finer” people. If it were not that so many women have now come forward with the same allegations, we might still be quick to discount them.

Does this sound familiar? It should. The situation brings us back to how we choose to perceive abusers in our own community. Not long ago an individual from Europe contacted me about a case in Brooklyn. I had some peripheral involvement with that situation; the perpetrator is now in jail. The caller told me he knew the convicted man and still thinks he had been railroaded – in effect that he was the victim rather than the women he abused.

I explained that the authorities had properly investigated and that many victims had come forward to report what had been done to them. Not every victim’s testimony was used in the court case because they were all similar and unnecessary for the prosecution. It was impossible for the victims to have rehearsed their stories, but their experiences were very much the same and they had all been victimized in a similar way by this perpetrator. All of this pointed to their believability. Predators tend to have a modus operandi, a typical way of acting. I also told the caller that it is important for us to develop a sense of believability toward victims.

Just a few days later, I attended a shiur on ne’emanus – believability. The psak was that in cases of abuse there should be not even be a question – when a victim comes forward, a report must be made to the authorities. There might be a question only in cases with very young children, the rav added, citing a case from the 1970s that he said indicated very young children may be misdirected and therefore a question regarding their believability exists.

I knew about that particular case and informed him that when young children give details of sexual abuse – something they should otherwise have no knowledge of at that age – they are confirming that they had indeed been abused. The case he referenced had been dismissed on a technicality and in fact many of the predators were rearrested. I referred the rav to a book that examines this and similar cases: The Witch-Hunt Narrative by Ross Cheit (Oxford University Press), which dispels the myth that victims make up their stories and therefore should not be believed.

Victims are not usually quick to come forward to report what happened to them. And it is exceptionally rare that they are not telling the truth. Except in cases of custody, victims tell the truth. If there is any question, only properly trained investigators can do the necessary research. If we are to confront abuse, we must begin by believing the victims.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. It appears as if you learned nothing from the above article.
    How about believing what 20 people say? And just how many people have come to Cosby's defense?
    Also, a recent comment from Cosby that he expects only the black media to be neutral speaks of his character – or lack o, and his hypocrisy.
    Especially considering that he has been the biggest critic of black culture. That is, until he appeals to them to show favoritism because he's black.
    I didn't want to believe the accusations. I grew up with Fat Albert. Loved Cosby's stand up acts. But after 20 women have come forward, I have no reason to support this sick man.

  2. Read Mr. Pierson's comments again, Mr. Sands. He is not saying that accusers are NEVER truthful, he is saying that they should not be ALWAYS considered truthful. In this, he seems to be responding to Dr. Salamon's sweeping contention that "it is exceptionally rare" that people claiming abuse "are not telling the truth." In Cosby's case, my judgment is that at least some — probably many –of the accusations are true. But even on Cosby you introduce an inaccuracy: He never said that he expects ONLY black media to be neutral. Rather, in an interview with a frequent writer for black media, he said he expects the black media to be neutral.

  3. I am not following this all to the T. Yet in my opinion, it appears that allegations against Cosby were timed. And Cosby has been an avid supporter of Israel and truth. It must also be understood, that people come forth in packs, when they feel they will be justified; whether or whether not they are actually speaking in truth or justice

  4. I'm kind of with you with most of what you said.
    But here are Mr. Cosby's EXACT words. Notice the word "only" . "Let me say this. I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind," he told the New York Post's Page Six.

  5. Oh please. Nine of us want to believe Cosby could be that evil. But who wanted to believe kids were being sexually abused by priests. But it happened and they got away with it for years. Let the authorities do their job and we will see what happens.

  6. No, they are not all looking to cash in. If they were, they blackmailing Cosby would be a cinch. There is no financial gain in spilling the story to the media. And in fact scrutinizing the character of the accusers is pretty much all anyone has been doing until recently, and it's the standard response to rape claims. It's actually time to start examining Bill Cosby's less than stellar character.

  7. No it wouldn't. Polygraphs are not foolproof, and they're not admissible in a court of law. They're merely used to extract confessions. I'm surprised so many members of the public are under the impression that lie detectors can definitively determine the truth.

  8. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a LEGAL term. MORALLY, it's not only permissible to scrutinize people who accumulate multiple accusations of rape, but imperative. If we simply assumed everyone was innocent, nothing would ever be tested in a court of law. If your daughter's male teacher had been accused of s*xual impropriety by almost twenty young women, you would have a right to be concerned, and indeed a responsibility to be concerned.

  9. This article fails to bring up an important aspect of why victims are not believed, and that aspect is perpetrators know how to pick their victims. Very few of us make good victims. Bill Cosby was really good at picking women no one would believe. Women who had relationships with married men, strippers, women who posed in playboy, women who were trying to get a career in showbusiness. He didn't choose women who were his peers to exploit sexually, he picked women who he thought of as nobodies. And he was right, we didn't care. Years later many of these women built credible lives, but at the time, they wouldn't have been believed.

    This is why serial killers often pick prostitutes to murder. No one cares. There is a movement called "Black Lives Matter"… we need one of those for women, too.

  10. Or was he good at picking women who lacked credibility so he could say "Look she is a sl*t" relying on the old tired premise that you can't rape "loose women". And you are perpetuating that myth with your comment, and you are devaluing all women with it, as well

  11. I never thought of that before but it makes perfect sense and Alaska is the perfect example of that: we have the nation's highest rate of sexual assaults and the vast majority of them are low-income Alaska Native women, victims that are easily dismissed. Fortunately, the situation is turning around somewhat but we still have a long road ahead.

  12. Christian Olsen No, not all men are rapists. But when one man gets accused by women that all fit a certain sort of profile, it is a classic case of a rapist that either has a fixation on a certain sort of woman, or has done what is called "interviewing" his potential victims. Those who study rape can tell you much more than I can in a small facebook post, but if you have an open mind, care to know, you can read up on studies on sexual predators for yourself… unless you just want to bash me for pointing out the fact that his victims tend to fall into a certain profile. He also does his fair share of "grooming" of victims, offering "mentoring", promising help with their careers… that is part of his profile as well that seems to occur after his bunny chasing days.

  13. Christian Olsen I wanted to add, I was lucky enough to take part in a rather expensive self protection course that taught not only physical defense against rapist, but also delved into things like victims selection, grooming, etc etc etc. They taught us this so we could reduce the likelihood of becoming victims ourselves. The idea is to not be a good victims.

    Unfortunately, part of being a good victim is socio-economic. Being a woman that has been labelled as promiscuous, loose, or easy makes a woman a better target. She is far less likely to report it, and if she does, no one will believe her and your comments show how true that is.

  14. So the last question is do they have any sort of financial incentive to do this? It's 30 years later. Cosby a millionaire. There "lawyer" has already tried to get Cosby to pay 100 million in a trust fund. They have no way of proving anything. Why did they wait so long? If he was guilty and he did it last week. Id say put him away. But it's not last week it's 30 years ago.

  15. Christian Olsen Many of them cannot sue because it is beyond the statute of limitations. In other words, it is too late for them to get money out of him. Many of these women have successful careers, economically they are doing well, and they do not need his money, they have plenty of their own. I cannot imagine a woman who was well off putting themselves in the position to be called hideous names all over the internet and to be torn apart over a rape allegation that wasn't true. I am sure it is possible that one or two of these women have economic motivations, if I was raped by a rich guy and would never get justice for it, i would seek the only justice I could get, which is monetary

    Don't you think it is strange that the vast majority of his accusers come from so long ago that they cannot sue? Many of them agreed to testify for the suit he settled, even though there was nothing in it for them.

    I think most of these women are telling the truth, which makes me not care that some of them might not be. He brought all of this on to himself if he raped just one woman. He will never be jailed for his alleged crimes. If he drugged just ONE woman and raped her he is a low cretin. I think in some ways it would be worse to be drugged and raped then just to be raped. Having no idea what someone did to you, having lost complete control, the risk to their health and lives. It is a really heinous crime.

  16. Howard Sands , Just this once more, and then I'll drop out of this conversation. Again, that's a misrepresentation of Cosby's comment. He said — as you correctly quote him — "I only expect the black media to,,," Only expecting someone to do something is NOT the same as saying you expect only that person or group to do that thing. Mr. Sands, I wish you ONLY the best! (But that is surely not the same as "I wish ONLY YOU the best." ) 😉

  17. its exceptionally rare they are not telling the truth? it is when you are a star on tv and somebody wants to damage cosby name. no way 20 females over 30 years and not one of these frauds went to the hospital or had a rape kit done or filed a lawsuit claiming rape!
    now within a 3 week time frame they all come out. that is orchestrated to the fullest! cosby had a netflix deal and a new show coming in 2015. somebody did not want cosby to have anymore success!
    this exact same play came out when herman cain ran for president. all of a sudden 5 women says they were raped. herman said he never even seen the last 4 accusers. the first one had a suit against her for lying on someone else for the same issue. there is always a motive by somebody. just because they replay these phony stories over and over on tv does not make it true!

  18. The man may be the victim, often people jump on the band wagon for money. Need more recent victims to step forward as pedophiles and rapist don't just stop. Unless maybe medical condition ect. We need a in depth investigation of both the accused and the accusers. I hate to see a good man destroyed or a bad man get away.

  19. Howard Sands McMartin preschool trial, is why the number of people means little, facts are required. No one came to the McMartin's defense it took facts. They lost everything from the rolling snowball. Friends, reputation, business, a lift time of debt, Look into the accusers as well.

  20. since he seemed to prefer white women to black they were afraid to complain because Americans are afraid of accusing blacks of anything and the media in the US is so liberal and racist that they wouldn't even run a story accusing this black public figure of anything wrong. If this were Joe the plummer he would have been fried long ago.

  21. Christian Olsen That seems to be a technical truth. At the end of the day, all of Cosby's chicken coming home to roost is 'justice' of sorts, in my view. Justice doesn't have to come at the hands of a judge or a God. Often, what comes around does in fact go around.

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