it’s time. again.

** A personal note to my dad – just in case you didn’t get my message, please don’t read what follows. – Jessie

              To everyone else, cw: sexual assault


{Image is a screenshot of Joan Tarshis on CNN. The banner along the bottom of the screen reads, “Exclusive: Bill Cosby Rape Allegations – Joan Tarshis, “Of course I told no one.”}

“Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced,” Mr. Schmitt’s statement said. “The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.”

Mr. Schmitt did not detail how the accusations had been discredited. In the past, Mr. Cosby and his lawyers have occasionally denied the charges, but a settlement was reached with one woman, Andrea Constand, in 2005 in a civil suit that had promised to include testimony from 13 other women making similar allegations.

– The New York Times, Lawyer defends Cosby Over Assault Claims

[Bill Cosby’s] carefully-crafted image has taken a hit in recent weeks as decade-old accusations that Cosby drugged and raped or molested numerous women have resurfaced. Fifteen women have now accused the comedian and actor of sexual assault. Cosby has never been criminally charged and has denied the allegations.

– Time Magazine, A Time Line of Events

“Quite honesty, you know, look, I’m sorry, having been on both sides of this where people allege that you do something, it doesn’t matter now,” Goldberg said. “The cat is out of the bag, people have it in their heads. I have a lot of questions for the lady. Maybe she’ll come on.”

After playing a clip of [accuser Barbara] Bowman claiming no one believed her at the time of the incidents because of Cosby’s stature, Whoopi argued that the police or the hospital might have and wondered aloud why she never had a rape kit done.

– Mediaite, Whoopi Skeptical of Cosby Rape Accuser

What follows is an adaptation of my HuffPo article, It’s Time: The Story of My Rape — 23 Years Later, originally published in October of 2012.

I told no one.

For so many reasons, I told no one.

I knew him. Hell, I’d had a crush on him for years. Co-captain of the football team. Swoon-worthy. The talk of mid-night sleepovers with the girls.

So I told no one.

I’d walked outside with him — into the dark.

I was drunk.

When he kissed me, I kissed him back.

So I told no one.

Because had he not done what he did, I might have. Oh hell, I would have.

Had I had the choice.

But he took the choice away.

And I told no one.

Because I thought it was my fault.

Yeah, he pulled the trigger, but I handed him the gun when I walked outside with him, said the voice.

Into the dark.

When he kissed me, I kissed him back.

I handed him the gun, the voice told me. It must have been my fault.

I have been following the news this week, reading every story that comes across my desk with a bemused sense of horror. I’ve been staring at the words as if through a greasy Plexiglas window. I’ve been listening to the talking heads pontificate about what it all means. I’ve been hearing them talk as if they’re underwater. Their words just don’t compute.

I’ve heard Whoopi Goldberg respond to Barbara Bowman, who claimed first in 2006 and again in October that Cosby drugged and raped her when she was a teen in 1985, and who said that her initial accusation had been met with disbelief, by saying, “Perhaps the police might have believed it. Or the hospital. Don’t you do a kit when you say someone has raped you? Isn’t that the next step once you make an allegation? Don’t the cops take you into a hospital for a kit?”

I’ve heard Don Lemon in a CNN interview in front of an audience of millions ask Joan Tarshiswho accused Cosby of raping her while she was drunk when she was 19, why she didn’t bite his penis when he shoved it into her mouth.

And I’ve heard Janice Dickinson say, “I remember a lot of pain.”

It’s odd what I remember all these years later. It’s not the physical pain. It’s not the begging for him to stop. It’s not the tears nor the shock that followed.

It’s the ground. The dark, damp asphalt. And the bricks in the wall. And the smell of the dumpster just feet away.

But more than anything else what has haunted me this week has been an image of something that I couldn’t actually see at the time. A picture that I’ve created in my mind over time. From a different perspective. One outside myself. Watching it happen.

It’s his hand. Splayed across my back. Holding me in place. Taking away my choice. My control. My dignity.

I told no one.

For so many reasons, I told no one.

Twenty-five years later, I am still embarrassed. I still feel like it’s my fault. I still see his hand, the ground, the bricks, the loss.

Twenty-five years later, it’s time.

It’s time because we still don’t understand why a woman would wait to report being raped by a renowned and beloved celebrity. Why, when met with incredulity from family and friends, she’d expect anything different from the police. Why, when faced with the prospect of public ridicule and a long, drawn out trial, she might choose the safety of anonymity. Why, at 19 and drunk, when one of Hollywood’s most visible, powerful and influential celebrities puts his penis in her mouth, she didn’t bite it.

So it’s time. For Joan Tarshis. For Tamara Green. For Janice Dickinson. For Beth Ferrier. For Barbara Bowman. For Andrea Constand. For the thirteen Jane Doe Witnesses with similar stories. For anyone who has not yet come forward.

To be clear, I cannot speak to the veracity of these allegations. I do not know enough about any of them to convict nor exonerate Bill Cosby of anything.

But what I do know is what it’s like to be afraid to speak the truth. To wallow in shame. To feel responsible for that which was not my fault, was never my fault. And I know that if we keep allowing those with a platform to shame those who do come forward with these incredibly serious and painful accusations, we’ll never change the culture that allows these atrocities to happen in the first place.

For every friend and every reader who recognizes these stories as his or her own.

It’s time.

12 thoughts on “it’s time. again.

  1. Yes. Different, but yes.
    And crying.

    Oh, why?

    Crying for the little girl I was who had the choice taken away.
    And crying for the little girls and women who have had – and still are having – their choices taken away.

  2. Jess you are so right IT IS TIME. And as hard as it is to speak up; it is time for this behaviour to stop! Thank you for sharing, being brave and being you. X

  3. Thank you as always, for being brave and sharing the hardest, most awful memories. It makes a difference, for all of us who aren’t ready or able to share.

  4. The reaction of some commentators on the BillCosby rape allegations show some of the key issues of rape culture, including the reason many rape culture victims don’t come forward: blaming the victim (why didn’t she bite his crotch) and saying something that brings into question of the character who is well-liked or respected, such as a famous celebrity like Cosby. The truth is, if he is guilty, which I don’t find hard to believe, I, realistically, doubt he will find the retribution he deserves being given to him. I hope, at least, that this occurrence may at least open up some discussion about rape culture to diminish its existence. I would find it vry scary to raise a daughter, not to mention an autistic or disabled daughter (who have statistically higher risks of sexual assault) in this world.

  5. Jess- I read your original post on HuffPo a few years ago, and your words about the shame that wasn’t yours, should never have been yours….those words broke through my vault of secrets and helped me to finally say out loud what I had kept silent for 25 years. Thank you so much, from one who has endured the shame and fear in silence, for speaking the truth and dropping the keys of freedom into my cell. (as Glennon would say!) I hope your words continue to reach those hiding in the dark.

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