Recently, the sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby re-entered the public sphere due to a joke by comedian Hanibal Burress, who said “You rape women.” This stunning remark led the public to go back and review the sexual assault allegations against Cosby and where they came from.
This takes us to the story of Barbara Bowman, a woman who says that Cosby assaulted her several times when she was 18-years old. Bowman says that she was regularly drugged and raped by Cosby, who positioned himself as a mentor for her. She also says that she was intimidated by him and coerced into several uncomfortable situations where he forced himself upon her.
Some might ask why Bowman chose to continue flying to meet with Cosby if she knew that she was going to be sexually assaulted. Couldn’t she have chosen to not visit him anymore or to alert the authorities? Despite her peculiar decision to voluntarily spend so much time with a man who was having his way with her, it’s not difficult to imagine an 18-year old being so star struck by Bill Cosby that she mistakenly thought that this kind of experience was the price of admission into the industry. She also claims that her agent pressured her into allowing Cosby to do whatever he wanted.
There were some who might say that the allegations from Bowman and others may have been motivated by money. Many of the cases, coming from 13 different women, were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, so apparently, money has exchanged hands. One of the accusers, Attorney Tamara Green, had been disciplined by the California State Bar Association for allegedly stealing $20,000 from her clients and then shutting down her office.
As in so many cases alleging sexual assault, these women make imperfect witnesses. They are talking about events two or three decades old. Many of their recollections are fragmentary, and in some cases, they are not even sure what happened between them and Cosby, though that is not unusual in cases where a possible date-rape drug is involved. None of the women ever contacted police with their stories, either at the time of the alleged assaults or in the years leading up to Constand’s revelations, and two of the five women reached by PEOPLE allowed Cosby to pay part or all of their travel and/or living expenses for some time.
Despite money being passed around, the notion that the allegations were all financially motivated is highly questionable for at least three reasons:
1) The massive number of women who’ve come forward (which might mean there are others who were afraid to speak up),
2) the consistency of their stories,
3) the fact that Barbara Bowman couldn’t receive a dime from her interview in Newsweek, since the statute of limitations had passed and she couldn’t be financially compensated in a lawsuit.
It should be remembered, however, that Cosby was never charged, indicted, tried or convicted for any of the crimes. Also, it’s tough to understand why none of the victims went to the police right after the incident to have their blood tested for any sort of date rape drug. Finally, the fact that two of the women went on to have consensual relationships with Bill Cosby and some of them continued to let him pay their bills adds even more confusion to those of us who might be tempted to see Cosby as a scary threat to the women in his presence.
On the flip side of this, we do know that powerful celebrities get away with crime all the time, and some might wonder if Bill Cosby’s wealth and fame protected him from being held accountable for his indiscretions. If that’s the case, then it’s a sickening reminder of how our justice system is driven by the wrong set of incentives.
As it pertains to money, the fact that Bowman couldn’t file a formal lawsuit against Bill Cosby doesn’t preclude the possibility that she may have sought to extort him. Cosby has been in other situations where someone has threatened to expose his private life or lie on him if he didn’t offer them money, so this is not an impossibility. Back in the 1990s, Autumn Jackson, working with several co-conspirators, claimed that she was Cosby’s out-of-wedlock daughter. She told him that if she didn’t pay him millions, she would go to the media with her story. So, it’s not out of the question for a news story to be the result of Cosby not folding to financial demands; he’s held his ground on this kind of thing before.
Also, the lack of evidence in these cases reminds us to be careful about making accusations against someone without physical proof or a conviction in the court of law. But 13 accusers is a big load for anyone to carry, so it’s difficult to know what happened in all of these uncomfortable situations. It’s honestly very tough to believe that Cosby didn’t do anything wrong, and that’s what makes us uncomfortable.
Read some of Bowman’s interview and share your thoughts. Do you think it’s possible that Bill Cosby did this to these women? If so, does that make him hypocritical or less worthy of praise for the good things he’s done for the world? At what point does an illegal or unethical act take away the value of good things you’ve done? What will be Bill Cosby’s legacy?
You can read more about the Bowman interview below:
I was a 17-year-old model and up-and-coming actress in Denver, Colorado. My agent knew Bill. I was told that he wanted to scout some new talent — if we were lucky, we would be groomed to go to New York and get more solid training so we could move up the ladder, maybe eventually get to audition for the Cosby Show.
Bill came to town, and my agent set up a meeting for us. I was told that Bill wanted to get to know me and my acting abilities and skill level, and wanted to know what sort of marketing ability I had. He had me come meet him whenever he was in town to do meet-and-greets, and he’d give me acting lessons. Then, he started flying me around to major cities to events to get accustomed to being around celebrities, and, he said, to see if I was worthy of mentoring.
Q: What was it like having Bill Cosby as your mentor?
It was overwhelming. It was surreal and exciting, but it was also scary. He worked me over emotionally and psychologically. He broke me down and really preyed on my insecurities… I had no father figure in my life, so he zoomed right in on that and tried to make me feel as though he loved me like a father would.
I was young, wide-eyed and impressionable, and he would play games with my head, and manipulate me into believing that he cared about me, that I didn’t have anyone who cared as much as he cared, that I needed to trust him, that I had trust issues and that he would help me overcome those, because they would limit me as an actress. He told me I needed to give into him 100 percent, because he was investing in me, he believed in me.
Financial Juneteenth lessons from this story:
1) If Cosby did commit these crimes, it is a telling example of how a person’s money, fame and power can put them above the law and also intimidate others to the point that they don’t report even the most heinous of crimes. It is also a reminder of how too much raw ambition can cause us to accept the most egregious behavior from others in exchange for our “big break” or a chance to make more money. You have to ask whether or not it’s worth it. It’s usually not.
2) If Bill Cosby is innocent, this story says something about the extent to which people will go to get your money or destroy you. For Hanibal (the comedian) to make such a serious allegation on stage knowing that Cosby was never convicted might justify a lawsuit against him, or maybe even his part-time employer, Comedy Central. It’s difficult to say for sure that someone committed a crime when prosecutors say they did not. At the same time, the overwhelming number of women who’ve come forward with accusations against Cosby can make even the strongest supporter wonder what’s really going on.
3) In our justice system, we’re supposed to assume that people are innocent until proven guilty. But this doesn’t mean that a person is innocent just because they were never proven guilty. So, the lack of evidence against Bill Cosby doesn’t exonerate him in the minds of people who’ve read Bowman’s story and believe she might be telling the truth. But his wealth and fame should not be an excuse not to find out what really happened.
Source: Thy Black Man