Watching the Cosby abuse saga play out in the media and national conversation over recent months has triggered a lot of frustrated emotions for me. People ask why the women didn’t come forward sooner (many had and been silenced!), that they were doing it for personal gain (can anyone actually point to how this has benefited ANY of them?), that he’s innocent until proven guilty (convenient, since statutes of limitations have long expired), etc., etc., etc. Victims stepped forward, as we say they should, and received condemnation. Over and over. They were victimized a second time by our tendency to protect abusers, not victims. I have to wonder, which assault was worse?
And then it hit the news this week that Bill Cosby admitted under oath to obtaining drugs to use in sexually assaulting women. Exactly how dozens of women have publicly claimed he assaulted them. And people are still wondering if he will admit to the accusations now that these 2005 admissions have come to light.
Why does he need to admit to anything? How is there still any uncertainty? How many victims have to claim assault before they will be believed?
Yet, this is the scenario that plays out over and over, from institutions to churches to missions organizations to families and more. I have friends who have the literal, physical scars on their bodies from missionaries who abused them when they were children, and the response from the organization was that their word was not enough, there needed to be others claiming similar abuse before they could take action against actively serving abusers in their organization. I have seen families refuse to believe their children when they cry out for help against the abuse received from a sibling, parent, relative, or close friend. This pattern is too much the norm.
Can you imagine the horror of not only being physically abused, sexually assaulted, raped – and then when you reach out for help to the adults and authorities in your life not being believed? Can you imagine the powerlessness in that moment? The complete terror that the abuser not only will get away with it, but could return and do so again since no one believes you?
So why in the world are we still mystified at victim’s reluctance to reach out for help? Why do we question the amount of time it takes for the few of them who actually do speak out to work up the courage to step out? When this is the way they see other victims treated in their towns, their churches, their organizations, their nation?