The tales of sexual exploitation and abuse of power we’ve heard from the Norristown, Pennsylvania courtroom about Bill Cosby aren’t new to me. I heard them for the first time more than 10 years ago. At the time I worked for a news network and we interviewed one of his accusers.
I must shamefully admit, as a child of the 80’s, I was skeptical of the allegations of rape. This was a man who I faithfully watched every week. At a time when black actors and actresses weren’t often seen on television, (and when they were they portrayed criminals) – the Cosby family was refreshing. They were successful, funny and loving. I envied the ease at which they interacted with each other.
So a decade ago, when I sat down to help log the tape for my fellow producer (TV speak for creating a transcript with timecode of an interview), I went through an escalation and evolution of emotions as I listened to Barbara Bowman’s story. By the time I was halfway through, I realized that my skepticism was misplaced. No one would go through the scrutiny of what she had and would, if the story they were telling weren’t true. As my fingers clicked away on the keyboard and my ears grew sore from the ill-fitted TV station issued headphones, the shiny silver megastar I knew tarnished to a shadowed, dusty platter of hypocrisy and lies.
The Philadelphia station I worked for aired the story, but not after much “lawyering” and expressions of concern over possible lawsuits from Bill Cosby. It was almost enough to shut it down, but our management was brave (and perhaps aware of the ratings the story would bring, let’s be honest). He was a hometown man, a Temple U guy, a benefactor to so many things in our community. It was tough to reconcile.
Yet to spite our thorough coverage and in depth storytelling, the piece barely made a blip on his reputation. So many people had the same reaction I did initially. This couldn’t be. By believing people like Ms. Bowman we were giving up on a piece of our own childhoods. But our audience didn’t hear her entire story as I had the privilege of doing.
Fast forward to today when I heard the DA in the case almost break down in tears as he recounted the emotional investment the survivors of Cosby’s actions offered to the trial. To his credit, he acknowledged that for a long time, the system failed the women involved because of Cosby’s position of power.
But how many other Cosby’s are out there, allowed to slip by because of their reputation, or money or power or all of those things? How many women are forever impacted by the actions of a weak and cruel individual who committed such a sexual and gross act?
Through #TimesUp and #MeToo we have created a collective platform for people to share their stories, but understand it is still not without risk. We must open our ears and leave preconceived notions as we hear their stories. We must applaud people brave enough to bare their souls, and thankful to those who work tirelessly to amplify their voice and hold people accountable.