In the aftermath of Bill Cosby’s conviction, many people are asking the question again. Why did it take so long for most of his dozens of accusers to come forward with their stories? Why did they not report the sexual assaults right away, when the evidence was still fresh?
Let me tell you a story: One evening in 2009, while alone on a trip to Virginia, I got lost and was unable to find my way back to where I was staying. A man I did not know offered to walk me there.
Knowing I did not know the area, he led me around in circles until it got fully dark and I was completely disoriented. Then he jumped me. After raping me several times, choking me and threatening my life, he gave me directions and let me go.
I walked back, called 911 and immediately reported what had happened. A rape kit was taken, and the police began an investigation but didn’t make an immediate arrest. I decided not to keep secret what had happened and told people about it within a few days.
The backlash began right away.
First, a woman whom I had thought was my friend publicly accused me of making the entire story up to get attention. I offered her proof in the form of the police report; she refused to even look at it.
It got worse. Other “friends” joined in the public accusations, saying I must have filed a false police report about the rape.
One person Googled my boyfriend’s name and found a poem he wrote which vaguely referred to an unidentified person deceiving him about something important. This poem was presented as “evidence” that I must have lied about the rape.
When I stayed five days in a county-funded facility to recover from the emotional trauma of the attack, I was accused of using a fake rape story to take a “vacation” from my home and work responsibilities at taxpayer expense.
People who did believe me often blamed me for what had happened. This impacted not only me but also those who love me.
My grandfather asked what I had been wearing at the time of the attack and thought I must have been “leading on” the rapist. My father and grandfather had a big argument about this.
My boyfriend’s then-roommate said I had “brought this on myself” for going off alone with the man. My boyfriend had to move.
And so on.
The social consequences I faced for talking about the rape turned out to be even worse than the rape itself had been. Thinking about it still horrifies me.
At the time, my rapist was a cipher. When he was finally identified through DNA almost a year after the attack, he turned out to be one of the most marginalized kinds of people you can possibly imagine. He had no money, no friends, no power.
Had my rapist been a wealthy famous actor, adored by the public as “America’s Dad,” the baying mob judging everything I did and didn’t do and calling me all the manner of horrible things would have been infinitely worse. I would have been torn apart. Torn. Apart.
As any of Bill Cosby’s victims would have been, if they had stepped forward to accuse him of a horrific crime at the height of his career. As it is, they have all been pretty much torn apart anyway.
Meaghan Good lives in Venedocia.