“It can’t be true because he’s so well loved.”
“It can’t be true because he was around so many others and it didn’t happen to them.”
“It can’t be true because they waited so long to come forward.”
“It can’t be true because they’re conspiring to ruin him.”
I know. I get it. None of us WANT to believe someone we know, respect or admire could be a rapist. It shakes us and makes us question all those around us in positions of trust or authority. And yes, occasionally, unfortunately, rarely, false accusations are made which ruin someone’s life, and that’s not right either.
But when you begin to defend someone (and this time that someone in the news is Bill Cosby) based solely on the reasons given above, I can’t help but feel old angers rising again. Because guess what? Those are the EXACT same reasons people gave when my family came forward to reveal my brother had been sexually assaulted by a well-loved parish priest. As other victims and their families bravely came forward, the doubters began to grow more and more quiet, but there were still those who accused us of “trying to ruin the church.”
What’s the truth? Time will tell. Or maybe it won’t. I know one thing’s for certain. We must be very careful to make victims of any sexual crime feel safe in coming forward, whether it’s now or in the future. When they feel like they won’t be immediately attacked or made to defend why they didn’t “prevent” the assault, maybe they won’t have to wait years until they come forward. Maybe they’ll better be able to pursue criminal convictions because the “proof” is fresh.
We all have a part to play in making a safer world for our sons and daughters, and how we handle situations like these is very important. Imagine if your daughter overhears you saying you “just can’t believe these rape allegations because he just couldn’t do that and these women are probably looking for the spotlight and they waited too long to come forward and he’s an old man now so leave him alone.” And then, God forbid, your daughter is raped by her best friend’s father, a pillar of the community who everyone adores. Or her college basketball coach, whose winning streak is bringing revenue and acclaim to the school. Or she’s a young actress, trying to find success in a cruel industry, when an older veteran of the trade offers to take her under his wing and mentor her…and then he drugs and rapes her.
Would she feel safe coming forward? Would she dare sound the alarm on someone everyone trusts and admires? Perhaps not.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Let’s make sure she knows it’s safe to step into the light and tell her story.