Justice

Larry Wilmore Shut Down Bill Cosby’s Attempt to "Fight Back" Against Accusers

July 27th 2015

By:
Sarah Gray

On Monday night's "The Nightly Show," Larry Wilmore continued his coverage of the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegations. In previous weeks, Wilmore has fiercely gone after the comedian and actor over allegations that Cosby sexually assaulted an upwards of 40 women over the course of his career. In this particular segment, Wilmore pokes holes in Cosby's new strategy in the court of public opinion.

 

The segment comes one day after New York magazine's the Cut published a moving work of journalism: 35 of the 46 women who have come forward with sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby gave their personal testimony to the magazine. The result was a combination of stirring and often gut-wrenching photos, videos, and written testimony. It is incredibly affecting to see nearly three dozen women (and an empty chair) seated and facing straight ahead—confronting the world and their alleged attacker—all bravely sharing their experience of sexual assault.

 

 

NY Mag Cover

The cover says a lot about rape culture. It says that there are 35 women who have alleged that a powerful man sexually assaulted them. But before 35 women appeared in a stirring cover of a magazine, how many people believe them? How many do now?

Though the stories of Cosby's alleged sexual assaults have been building momentum since the matter resurfaced in 2014, many of the women were victimized decades ago—the oldest survivor is currently 80. It took the comedian Hannibal Buress' joke about Cosby being a rapist in 2014 for the issue to return to the media's attention, despite the fact that one woman, Andrea Constand, filed a lawsuit in 2005, and 13 other women signed on to that case. That's already 14 women, and yet Cosby was granted 10 more years of a mostly untarnished career.

And for the women who didn't sign on to the 2005 case, their silence says more about the lens with which we as a culture look at sexual assault—blaming the victim by believing more often that women are trying to get money from a powerful man. Read the testimony: woman after women said they were afraid to come forward.

And it took the very recent release of the 2005 deposition, in which Cosby admitted that he gave Quaaludes to women to facilitate sexual encounters, for many to believe the women. By that point, over 40 women had come forward with stories of alleged sexual misconduct perpetrated by the actor and comedian.

So yes, the cover is powerful. It reminds us how our culture failed these women and how we've certainly failed countless others who have not felt comfortable coming forward with allegations of sexual assault.

The cover is also a manifestation of how far we've come, as the New York magazine article by Noreen Malone reminds us. This is a time when many women have taken back the narrative. Women—including Emma Sulkowicz, Lena Dunham, Roxane Gay, and others— have published their stories of sexual assault. Each time, these women confront a wave of rancor and backlash, but each time they assert their humanity, their right to be heard.

You won't find portions of their testimony quoted here: I urge you to read the stories, to give each woman a chance to be heard. Because with this one magazine cover—and the powerful contents within the pages of said magazine—maybe we can finally start to change the narrative.