I was listening to an exchange between CNN’s Don Lemon and Joan Tarshis, the latest in a dozen-plus women to come out and tell her story about being raped by Bill Cosby. She says she was drugged and, as she came to, he was pulling off her panties; she was smart and quick-thinking in the moment (applause!) and said she had a disease, that if he had intercourse with her his wife would find out. So he made her give him a blow job instead. And all Don wanted to know was why she didn’t bite his penis. (you can watch or read the full exchange here)
Translate: Why did you let that happen?
Translate: It’s your fault.
Being drugged and afraid and raped — by a powerful celebrity no less, an icon, The Cosby Show Dad, King of Jello Pudding — is not enough; you have to take the blame for it, too.
If you are a woman or a young girl listening to or reading this exchange, this is what you’ve learned: If you are raped, your credibility and your inability to think on your feet — or think on your knees, as it were — will be questioned. And boy doesn’t that sound like something you want to get into to ruin your already ruined life?
That’s what it’s like to be a woman, after being raped.
One of the last questions my mother asked me before she died was this: Did any of the men in my life ever do anything to you? I knew instantly what she meant, and she knew I knew. She was in her hospice bed, with rails. I remember she could not look at me. I remember reaching through the cold rails and rubbing my hand up and down her arm as I said, “No, of course not.” Which was the truth.
How devastating that this was something she was worried about, that this had obviously gnawed at her for years, and yet she never asked. Until the very end. Why? Because she was terrified of the answer. Why? Because she could not die without knowing. Why? Maybe she knew she could not have lived with the answer.
That’s what it’s like to be the mother of a girl.
I’ll never know. She died 6 days later, relieved.
And even if something had happened, which it didn’t, I would have lied to her in that moment. I would have spared her that.
That’s what it’s like to be a girl with a mother.
Today I read the words of a woman my age (50-ish), a former defense attorney, about what she thinks about making Consent a Law. No means no, and all that. She said it’s not that simple, and she’s right.
She said that when she was young she would say “no” even if she wanted to have sex, because saying “no” at first, even though she wanted to, meant that she was a good girl. It proved something. I knew exactly what she meant. When I was a teen I knew I had to say no at first, because that proved I was talked into it, that I was, maybe, just stupid for agreeing. If I’d said yes right off, that proved something completely different, that I was a slut or a whore or dirty or easy. Saying “no” was a way of maintaining some weird semblance of virtue. It was so much easier to be thought of as “stupid” than “easy.”
That’s what it’s like to be a young girl who wants to have sex with one person, her steady boyfriend of 3 years.
I just listened to a prosecuting attorney discuss rape charges that were filed years ago against Bill Cosby. (you can find it here) He said he believed the accuser, but that she’d come forward too long after-the-fact and lacked physical evidence. He said he interviewed Bill Cosby, who vowed innocence, and knew Cosby was lying. He could not file charges because he knew, even though he thought the woman was telling the truth and her rapist was lying, there was not enough proof.
That’s what it’s like.