The first time it happened, I was in my grandparents' living room. Brock Turner, the accused rapist from Stanford, was on television, and newscasters were recounting allegations that he had sexually assaulted a young woman. I was mortified, and so was my family, but for two completely different reasons.
“He just seems like he had so much going for him,” my grandmother sighed. My family nodded in agreement. The girl wasn’t mentioned at all.
At that point, I didn't really know what the term “victim-blaming” meant, or what it even was. But at that point, I was reminded why I never told anyone about my own rape: because my family would never understand. My rapist had "so much going for him" too: he was in college studying business, and he had two nieces. He was a good guy.
And today, after Bill Cosby’s rape trial was declared a mistrial, my family members said the same thing they did about Brock Turner. "Thank goodness, he’s such a good man," my grandma noted. "He doesn't deserve to have his life ruined." His accusers, she said, were "liars." They were "floozies." They were "conspiring" against one of America's most beloved comedians.
But for me, today hurts. Today, I'm brought back to how I sat still on my grandma’s green floral couch when my relatives talked about Brock Turner, my legs tightly crossed. How I kept fighting back tears, and how silent I was. I couldn’t bring myself to stand up for the young woman, the alleged victim, who was violated. I couldn’t say anything because if I did, it would also have been obvious what had happened to me. They would've known that I was just like the victim they were ignoring, the girl they'd assumed was lying.
So I stayed silent. And now, because Cosby is now a free man, my fear is that other survivors like myself will stay silent as well.
Cosby’s trial, where 12 witnesses testified on behalf of the prosecution, is over. According to CNN, " jurors told the court they could not come to a unanimous decision beyond a reasonable doubt, which is required in criminal cases." And while prosecutors maintain that they will continue to fight for Cosby's accusers, the fact remains that, for now, Bill Cosby has not been convicted of sexual assault.
For my family, the right side has won. Cosby isn’t going to jail, and that’s how it should be. "Those women are liars," my grandma said. "Such a good man shouldn’t have to have his life ruined because some women were leading him on." They point to his many accomplishments: The Cosby Show, his philanthropic efforts. It doesn't cross their minds that such a "good" man could potentially be capable of doing anything bad.
After I was assaulted, I struggled for months trying to understand what had happened to me. I'd met a stranger at a bar, and he'd bought me drinks. He spoke with a cute accent, and he'd seemed like such a good guy. The night was blurry, and dark, and I was on my bed without knowing how I got there. On days like today, it feels like I’m back there again saying “no”," only to be shushed and pinned down.
The shaming of Cosby's accusers is exactly why I never told anyone what happened to me, and it’s why so many women will likely make the same decision in the future.
For too long, I couldn’t admit what had happened: that I was raped; that I'd said no. For way too long, I did and said nothing.
Then after Donald Trump was elected president, I couldn't stay silent any longer. I screamed and shook and couldn’t stand to look at my family’s Facebook pages cheering on "such a good man," with such a "great capacity to lead." "Thank goodness Hillary is gone," one wrote. So I came clean, telling everyone about what had happened to me. And within an hour, a family friend posted a story about someone clearly better than me: a Christian woman, a rape survivor, who voted for Trump.
So today, after the Cosby case resulted in a mistrial, I am livid. Not just because of the failure of the justice system to hold accused rapists accountable, but because of the message the jury's inability to reach a verdict sends. That women who are brave enough to come forward still won’t be believed. That even though there can be dozens of accusers telling the same story with the same details, a "good" man will still go free, 100 percent of the time.
Because Cosby was such a "good" man, my family doubts that he could've done what all those women have accused him of doing. Cosby's entire career was built on the idea that he was a decent, wholesome family man. When a woman accuses a man like that of sexual assault, our culture automatically aligns itself with the man, which is precisely why many of his accusers have been publicly harassed by Cosby's supporters. That type of shaming makes speaking out against "good" guys like Cosby so challenging.
The shaming of Cosby's accusers is exactly why I never told anyone what happened to me, and it’s why so many women will likely make the same decision in the future. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a man someone is, or how promising a future they have, or how powerful they are. Rape is rape is rape is rape is rape, and it is a crime.