Responses to Cosby allegations shape rape culture

News that legendary comic and self-proclaimed family man Bill Cosby has been accused of raping numerous women should not be easily forgotten. When a beloved celebrity commits such an egregious act, it should be enough to end that celebrity’s career. This has not been the case for Bill Cosby, however, nor has it been with Woody Allen or John Travolta. There are countless celebrities whose alleged crimes have been forgotten in lieu of their public successes.

Celebrity status should not be a cover for crimes like rape. When celebrities are absolved of their rape crimes, it gives the impression that rape is something that can be forgiven and forgotten. This creates a culture where rape is seen as something normal.

The most vocal of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims, Barbara Bowman, first brought her case to the public eye eight years ago. It has taken eight years for this woman’s attack to finally be taken seriously by the media. Since 2005, numerous women have made similar claims to Bowman and Cosby has repeatedly denied them all. “Innocent until proven guilty” is the law, and because the allegations have been settled outside of court, there is no way for the public to know whether or not these allegations are true.

Similar stories have played out with different male celebrities in the past. Celebrity allegedly rapes woman, case is settled out of court or said celebrity does time for the crime. Said celebrity goes on to continue his successful career and the public essentially forgets the incident altogether.

Celebrities like John Travolta, Mike Tyson and Woody Allen have all been accused of sexual assault against on e or many men and women. Travolta waits a scheduled court date with his alleged victims. Tyson served a prison sentence for his crime. While the case against Allen was dropped, his alleged victim and adopted daughter Dylan Farrow stands by her story.

When thinking about these celebrities, one might associate them with adjectives like “talented,” “handsome” or “successful.” “Alleged rapist,” however, is probably not the first phrase that comes to mind. That is where the problem lies––these individuals are famous, but we cannot let their celebrity cloud our judgment.

If someone in your community––even one whom you were close with––was accused of the same crimes as these celebrities, surely you would see the accused person differently than you had seen him or her before. We must treat these celebrities the same way that any other individual would be treated.

The treatment of these issues has an enormous effect on our society’s perception of rape and this cannot be underestimated. In our culture, the first question a person is asked when they are raped is more frequently “What were you wearing?” than not. Anonymous Internet users think it is OK to use threats of rape to silence women who are vocal feminists.

We cannot immediately control the preponderance of rape culture. Choosing which celebrities to support critically and commercially, however, is something that we can control. When celebrities commit or are accused of sexual assault, these accusations should be remembered. When these crimes are forgotten, their silent acceptance becomes a societal acceptance of all rape crimes.