He might not have intended it, but comedian Hannibal Buress starting a wildfire that came decades too late. In case you haven't heard, Buress called Bill Cosby a rapist during a comedy set and weeks later the video went viral — leading to a worldwide awakening to the fact that many women, up to thirteen of them, have claimed to have been, or are said to have been, raped or assaulted by Cosby in the past. And not these claims were not quietly made either. Some of them were in widely-distributed magazines like People and even on television with their stories, which went unheard and ignored until now. On Sunday, another victim came forward with accusations against Cosby and the details are just as horrifying as you would expect from this kind of situation.
The woman, publicist Joan Tarshis, was quoted in a story on a website known as Hollywood Elsewhere. In it, she describes a series of alleged incidents in which Cosby assaulted her, the first occurring in 1969 when she was 19 years old. According to her, she was in Los Angeles to work on a monologue when she was invited out to lunch with Cosby, who took a likening to her, invited her back to see him several times, and even gave her an affectionate nickname — Midget — due to her small size. Then, one day, Cosby invited her over to work on some material while he made her a drink. I have to warn you that what Tarshis says happened next is incredibly horrifying and triggering.
The next thing I remember was coming to on his couch while being undressed. Through the haze I thought I was being clever when I told him I had an infection and he would catch it and his wife would know he had sex with someone. But he just found another orifice to use. I was sickened by what was happening to me and shocked that this man I had idolized was now raping me. Of course I told no one.
Even worse than that was the fact that Tarshis then had to listen to her mother bring up Cosby's name with joy and pride, pride that her daughter had gotten to work with such a big star. The pressure from that, plus her own feelings of guilt and revulsion over "letting it happen," a common feeling among survivors of sexual assault, led her to stay quiet and meet Cosby once more. When the exact same thing happened again, she found the strength to sever any ties with him and has remained quiet about this story for 20 years: "No one began talking until 2004. And though I knew I should say something, I still felt ashamed. Ashamed that I didn’t earlier."
At this point, the question becomes — will Tarshis' story propel Cosby to make some sort of statement in response to the allegations? Despite Buress' stand-up routine, despite Barbara Bowman's The Washington Post op-ed piece, despite the resurgence of all of these disturbing accusations that were never brought against Cosby in a court of law outside of privately settled civil suits — if even then — the actor has chosen to use his silence as a defense. The most we've received is a statement from Cosby's lawyer saying that his client refuses to respond to decades-old claims that are being repeated often enough to be misconstrued as the truth. Quite honestly, the victims who found the strength to come forward and the victims who are still dealing with their trauma in silence, deserve a better response from Cosby than that. And, in my opinion, Cosby owes himself a better response than that.
Whether you believe the allegations or not, the fact still remains that they are a black spot on Cosby's reputation, a dark side to a beloved figure that can't be waved away by silence. The time for silence has passed, so I hope that Cosby eventually responds — because these accusations need to be addressed.