Bill Cosby's high profile case, where he was accused of aggravated indecent assault, ended in a mistrial on June 17. Sexual assault allegations against Cosby date back to 1965, and as of October 25, 2015, nearly 60 women have accused him of sexual assault, most of which were facilitated by drugs. He has also has two accusations of child sexual abuse from 15 year old victims. Cosby has denied all of the accusations, but admits he did use a sedative, quaaludes, on some of the women to gain their consent. Since the statute of limitations were up on most of the sexual assaults because they occurred so long ago, only one women, Andrea Constand, could prosecute Cosby. She accused him of drugging her and then sexually assaulting her. If Cosby had been found guilty on all three counts of assault, he would have served a maximum of 15 to 30 years in prison and would have faced a $25,000 fine.
It was disappointing to hear about the mistrial, but it only got worse when Cosby's representative, Andrew Wyatt, released a statement saying that the actor is planning on hosting a series of town halls throughout the month of July, that essentially teach people how to avoid being charged with sexual assault. He explains that "this is bigger than Bill Cosby. This issue can affect any young person, especially young athletes, of today, and they need to know what they're facing when they're hanging out and partying, when they're doing certain things they shouldn't be doing. And it also affects married men." Ebonee Benson, a spokeswoman for Camille Cosby, Bill Cosby's wife, went on to say that "laws are changing, the statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault are being extended, so this is why people need to be educated on … a brush against the shoulder. Anything at this point can be considered sexual assault. It's a good thing to be educated about the laws." These town halls are simply meant to sway public opinion about Bill Cosby and make him seem like a man who simply cheated on his wife, not the rapist he is being portrayed as in the media. Here are the reactions of six women in regards to Cosby's sexual assault tour:
Maya U., Sophomore, University of Arkansas
"More than anything, I think that it is extremely insensitive to the victims. They are having a hard enough time emotionally recovering form something like that, especially when it has been splashed everywhere in the media. So, Cosby doing 'how to get away with rape' meetings is bound to just further their pain and lengthen the time it will take to recover."
Arielle G., Junior, Ramapo College
"THIS IS INSANE. First, he's granted a mistrial. THEN, rubbing salt in the wounds of 60 rape survivors, Bill Cosby is now teaching young wannabe rapists how to get away with rape... That would be like holding public classes about how to murder people & get away with it. I can't believe we live in a world where he could possibly be doing something like that."
Colleen C., Sophomore, SUNY Binghamton
"First off, Bill Cosby should be rotting in prison, and not have the ability to host town halls. But that's another story about how the justice system is actually the injustice system. To now have Cosby planning to go on a tour to teach others how to get away with similar sexual assault crimes is at the least, atrocious. What makes me hopeful is that these town halls are an idea at this point and there's the possibility that schools (or any institution for student athletes/young adults) will not welcome Cosby. And I hope they don't because we cannot let predators spread vitriol that condones and downplays the extremely serious issue of sexual assault and the rape culture surrounding it."
Shelby E., Sophomore, Nova Southeastern University
"Him being able to teach others how to get away with sexual assault is the epitome of rape culture. Instead of teaching consent classes or how to respect boundaries within a relationship, he chooses to teach assailants how to avoid being held responsible for their actions."
Gauri M., Freshman, Gettysburg College
"Well if I can be frank, I think it's complete BS. The issue is that we are allowing these things to happen. If OJ Simpson were holding town halls about avoiding beating your wife, no one would stand for that, but since it's sexual assault, society is uncomfortable and would rather be quiet than fight what is clearly an outrageous injustice. Regardless of whether or not he is actually guilty, someone with a bad name in the face of sexual assault crimes should not be giving out advice about anything, let alone sexual assault."
Nicole D., Junior, University of Connecticut
"If Bill Cosby was charged with sexual assault but had little to no evidence against him, I might be less opposed to his town halls. However, he admitted he gave at least one woman pills. This does not appear to be an example of someone being falsely accused of sexual assault, but rather a textbook example of it. I do understand that because sexual assault cases can be hard to prove with physical evidence, it does make it easier for someone to claim they were assaulted even if they weren't. However, many women and men are actually sexually assaulted and his town halls are only going to make it easier for people to commit these crimes and get away with them, making it harder for actual victims to get the justice they deserve. It is obviously horrible if someone is falsely accused, however most cases of sexual assault are real and focusing on the false one tends to discredit those who are real survivors of such acts. Instead of town halls that focus on how to avoid getting charged, he should have town halls that focus on what sexual assault is and how they can help prevent it from happening, therefore lowering the amount of cases as well as lowering the risk that they would be charged or in the same situation he is."
All in all, Cosby's "how to get away with rape" tour is a product of the ever persistent rape culture that exists in our society. As disgusted as it is that he thinks these town halls are a good idea, it's perhaps made worse by the fact that his wife's spokeswoman is advocating for them. As a woman, she should be the first one to call out these town halls as not only heinous, but offensive. Like the town halls, she is a product of a culture that refuses to acknowledge how pervasive and serious sexual assault is because of our society's attitudes towards gender and sexuality. A perfect example of this is fact that she thinks it is okay to trivialize sexual assault by saying simply "brushing against someone's shoulder" is sexual assault. That makes it seem as if every victim of sexual assault is being overly dramatic since we brush into people all the time in crowded settings without meaning any harm by it.
If we, as a society, plan on doing something about our problem with rape culture, we first have to address the fact that the people who are getting the brunt of it may not even acknowledge that it exists.
Writer's note: Some quotes have been edited for clarity.
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