This week, entertainment execs at Netflix and NBC canceled upcoming projects with Bill Cosby in light of renewed rape allegations against the 77-year-old comedian and national icon.
The FBI says less than 50 percent of rapes are reported, and the Cosby case — with its delayed reporting and laggard response — is hardly unusual, nor peculiar to celebrity culture. Cosby’s solid position as white America’s favorite black father figure, and his stature compared to the women who say he assaulted them, certainly helped him blow off questioners and quietly settle a civil suit in which 10 women were prepared to testify to the same behavior. As recently as two weeks ago Cosby was on camera deflecting questions with the royal “we.” “We don’t answer that,” Cosby says in a November 6th interview.
Two of Bill Cosby’s 17 rape accusers talked to Rolling Stone about what it feels like to bring down America’s Favorite Dad.
“I have been trying to be heard since 2006,” Phoenix artist Barbara Bowman says. “We have a culture that re-victimizes the victims. It is the most shameful, scary intimidating filthy place to live. It is a place of shame and darkness and fear. When people ask, why didn’t you tell anyone? Well I did tell someone.”
In the 1980s, Bowman was an ethereal 18-year-old blonde aspiring actress when a female agent introduced her to Cosby, who eventually drugged and raped her. “There was a good year of grooming and slowly, methodically, calculatingly tearing my spirit apart,” she says. “I was an only child. I had no dad. My mother was not in New York with me. The only friend I had was a model also transitioning to New York. She knew and they knew she knew, so they separated us. We told my agent together and I never spoke to her again for 28 years.” The agent, Bowman says, sent her home to her mother in Denver.
Bowman first told her story to the media in 2006, to back up another woman’s civil lawsuit against Cosby for similar behavior. Since last weekend, when she published an op-ed in the Washington Post, Bowman says her phone has been ringing off the hook.
“He is going to go down,” she says. “I believe he will go down as this generation’s most prolific serial rapist. We are gathering a lot of details. I am not in a position to reveal things I have learned. I have heard from men and women, from people with information. And I think the public’s mind will be blown.” She says she’s heard from six more women, none yet gone public, about similar incidents involving Cosby.
New York-based writer Jean Tarshis, also spoke with Rolling Stone. Until this week, Tarshis had never talked publicly about her Cosby experience. Tarshis was an aspiring comedy writer in her early twenties when she encountered Cosby in L.A. in 1969. She says he drugged her and she woke up to him sticking his penis in her mouth. She never reported the incident, she says, because it took her 10 years to realize that what happened to her was rape, and then another 10 years to speak of it privately, to friends.
“When people say, do you feel bad that people are accusing you of coming forward late, my response is there is nothing anyone can say that I haven’t said to put myself down,” she says. “After the first people I admitted it to, then I could speak more freely to others. But I had to pick and choose because of who it was. It wasn’t ‘oh I was raped by John Doe.’ He was royalty, a beloved figure. He was adored.”
Bowman, Green, Constand, all in national media 10 years ago, plus 10 Jane Does with similar stories — none of them mattered individually or collectively until comedian Hannibal Buress — a man, as Bowman pointed out — joked onstage about Cosby’s rape accusers in a standup routine that somehow went viral.
Bowman, an artist who works part-time as a rape advocate and has a 12-year-old daughter, says she feels vindicated by Cosby’s public fall. “It’s a wonderful way to teach my daughter a valuable lesson in life as she watches her mom stand tall and shout from the rooftops and say it’s ok, it’s ok, come out and tell your stories,” she said. “It feels liberating. I never came forward for money. My statute of limitations had long run out. I came out to support the victims and encourage women still living in fear to have courage.”
Tarshis, a journalist and publicist, says the incident with Cosby had a lasting effect on her career. “I stopped writing comedy. I stopped right away. Just could not do it. I have written other things and I maintained my sense of humor. It was very strange reaction. But luckily it didn’t influence my feelings to men and to people. That really would have been worse.”
Cosby’s first formal accuser and the only one to take him to court, Andrea Constand, a women’s basketball staffer at Cosby’s alma mater Temple University, told authorities that she woke up drugged in the star’s home in 2004. Cosby was never charged but she filed a civil suit. Constand is constrained by settlement terms from speaking out But this week, she did tweet a quote from another revered children’s icon, Dr. Seuss:
“‘My heart goes out to you: Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.'”