The problem with the Bill Cosby allegations is that people assume that you cannot be two people at the same time. But you can.
Just because he is perceived to be a family man does not mean he cannot be a monster. You can be both. Men (and women) have been both for centuries. It is a mistake to think that all people are usually who they present themselves to be in public.
Before the quaalude and rape allegations, all you would hear in reference to Bill Cosby was “America’s TV Dad ….” or “ …The Cosby Show”. Firstly, let’s remember that Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable is not a real person, he was a character, played by the actor, Bill Cosby.
Yes, I too “grew up with The Cosbys” – but so what? It was a show. Granted, a show that has its place in history when it come to altering the images of what a successful American family can look like, which was a big deal – not just in America but around the world for people like myself. But these were actors and as with all the other shows which have taken place over the years, scandals existed. Why? Because society gets excited when the humanity of their TV idols gets exposed. Tabloid fodder, we say. But is it?
The argument stands that if you choose to live your life in the spotlight, you have to expect your every move to be scrutinized. It goes with the territory. However does that mean that actors and other entertainers are expected to have higher values? Be better people? If our preachers, pastors and other leaders of religious organizations and cults around the world have difficulty adhering to values implicitly indicative of their chosen profession, why, pray tell, are we surprised when we hear about the same issues with actors?
It is a mistake to think that great men who abuse women cannot also be upstanding citizens. They can be both. And they are. It’s that simple.
If a man or woman is skilled at disguising the parts of his or her character that is less than attractive, while simultaneously convincing people that it cannot possibly exist, then they will. And they do. Society gives them the space to do so. The veneer of superficiality is one such space.
You CAN be successful in your chosen profession, hold a position that connotes deep values and trust AND be a rapist. It happens all cross this country – and the world.
It is a mistake to assume that the monsters among us look like monsters. There is a saying that the greatest trick the devil played on humanity was to convince people that he doesn’t exist. Personally, I refuse to recognize the existence of the ideal personification of evil. I see evil as something that exists in humanity as a whole. Evil is the essence used to breed and feed the monsters within.
SO taking this saying a step further, I say that the greatest trick that evildoers among us play is allowing us to believe that evil looks a certain way. For centuries, throughout literature, the villains have been described as hideous creatures. When moving pictures arrived, we saw the cloaked villain, the hunchbacked villain and pimpled witches stirring cauldrons…. We are raised with the notion that the hero is handsome and pleasing to the eye and the villain is unattractive and miserable. Today we are STILL surprised when the campus serial rapist looks like a superhero or when the mass-murderer turns out to be someone’s sweet grandmother.
These misconceptions help these monsters manipulate the more malleable among us into believing that they have values that they actually don’t – and by doing so, gain their trust.
I am sure that my learned psychologists may want to interject that I may be referring to sociopathic behavior – but I am not. We know that sociopaths can become leaders of the free world, worshipped and supported by the gullible and naive. Most people also know the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths by now and if not – there’s Google et al. for that.
As you may know, not all sexual predators are sociopaths. I am talking about the monsters among us who are able to somewhat stray from the typical sociopathic diagnoses because, let’s face it – and this is the difficult thing – they DO have the same feelings as everyone else. They DO care for and about people. They love, they hurt, they help, they heal, they carry out philanthropic activities. They are great fathers, brothers and mothers who have weaknesses like all human beings.
BUT – this is the thing I want to make clear. This is the thing I want to make sure you get from this mini-rant. They also know they have weaknesses and they choose to feed those weaknesses and breed them into monsters that they nurture, groom and feed. They are able to allow these monsters to exist in tandem with their “public” persona.
These people are our leaders, teachers, preachers, neighbors and yes, the hardest to acknowledge – our loved ones. And THAT is the reality that I don’t think we want to see.
And let me make it clear, in case there is any confusion, I am not a supported of Bill Cosby. As a woman whose life has had enough familiarity with abuse, I can recognize the characteristics of a sexual abuser in this man. I have no problem saying so. I also know what it is like to “not come forward”. Rape survivors, like domestic abuse victims are often misunderstood by those who have not walked in their (our) shoes.
But for those who have walked in our shoes, however often – or however briefly, you get it. You know those feeling of shame, and self-doubt and self-blame and shock and terror all rolled into a ball that gnaws your insides for years. You know what it is like to wish it never happened and wish you could forget it. You know what it is like to have any future relationship affected in some way or another by it. You know what it’s like to recognize the abuser’s expressions or voice or gait or mannerisms or tone, etc. in people you meet and even in those you fall in love with. Sexual abuse has a complicated and often, in my opinion, underestimated long-term effect on us. It can cause behaviors that may be opposite to what is expected from a victim of abuse.
So back to Bill Cosby. I never knew why the story irritated me until today when it suddenly hit me hard. What irritated me was that people found it such a shock. Then I realized why they did. People cannot seem to accept that we have monsters among us. It doesn’t matter how many versions of Little Red Riding Hood we read about. There is an overwhelming denial that there are as many monsters among us as they really are.
There are 2 primary ways that some (yes, only some) monsters are uncovered:
- Their egos obscure their fallibility: After a while, they believe that they are cleverer than other people – and they may be. But it just takes one determined person to expose their fallibility.
- They do not refine their modus operandi: When a method has delivered results over and over again why change it? This is the wrong mindset for the antics of said monsters. They forget that the world is changing around them and that they themselves are changing . Therefore a well-worn path that may have previously hidden their abusive behavior can get unearthed if these changes are not accounted for.
Consequently, there needs to be more ways for these monsters to be uncovered with more frequency – and sooner. This starts with survivors and victims alike understanding that their voices matter – and having the support needed to overcome the fear that they may not be believed. Contrary to what we may see on TV- there are many effective people in private and public organizations and law enforcement agencies working day and night to uncover these monsters – but their work would be much easier and have a deeper more lasting impact if we can report abuse without of fear what people will think or whether people will believe us. Even if the abuse is by a beloved, well-respected uncle.
For the record, those who lie about being abused for whatever reason, are just as vile in my opinion because they are muddying the work of those who are there to help the real victims. It makes the work more difficult for prosecutors who are trying to get the predators away from the public and save the next victim – who could be anyone’s teenage daughter, mother, sister or infant son.
I’ll finish with this – the more society drops superficial labels and places more value on authenticity and self-awareness, the less likely these monsters will find the space to feed, breed and pollute us with their cankerous sickness.