Forgetting Bill Cosby’s Stardom After Sexual Assault Conviction: Protecting Sexual Assault Victims With Powerful Examples
Groundbreaking African American actor and legendary family sitcom star Bill Cosby’s legacy has finally collapsed under the weight of the sexual misconduct he committed over the course of his career. Although Cosby has been accused of sexual misconduct and sexual assault several time by numerous woman over the course of decades, it was the drugging and assault of a Temple University employee that would transform the iconic role model to generations of black and non-black Americans into a convicted sexual predator. It was a bittersweet moment for those who see the face of Dr. Cliff Huxtable as they listen to the terrifying accounts of his forced sexual encounters with women and the helpless silence he was able to inflict onto his victims thanks to his star power.
The Constand rape verdict is a victory for Andrea Constand, all the victims of Bill Cosby, and all victims of sexual crimes everywhere. The fall of Bill Cosby, whose ascend helped empower disenfranchised populations, is a defeat to those disenfranchised populations, yet a victory for those victimized by influential figures. As big as Bill Cosby was and as significant as his conviction is, his conviction is only a minor act of justice. Not only are their countless other victims of sexual crimes who await justice, there are other far more powerful figures still able to hurt the weak with impunity. The so-called “Me Too” movement has helped expose sexual predators who abuse their affluence to silence their victims and further their wrongdoing, but their unveiling is a small conciliation when compared to the need to prevent others from becoming victims.
Exposing sexual predators and punishing them for their abuses empowers their victims. It does not, however, erase their scars. Nothing can do that. What justice can do is help prevent predators from victimizing others in the future. The ultimate goal of efforts to hold sexual predators accountable is to prevent them and others like them from hurting more people. Dethroning prominent sexual predators like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Roman Polanski sends a powerful message that no one has immunity to rape. The conviction of highly influential spiritual leader and living saint Asaram Bapu for the rape of a teenage, along with India’s embrace of the death penalty for child rape, sends an even more powerful message when considering the cultural barriers within India that protect sexual predators and silence victims.
With that in mind, victories over predominant sexual predators will make a difference only when they are remembered. In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky Sexual Abuse Scandal and the cover up by various Penn State officials, legendary football coach Joe Paterno was stripped of his victories and honors for his failure to investigate accusations of Sandusky’s crimes against children. Outside of the college football, the infamous case is rarely discussed and barely remembered by society. Today, Bill Cosby’s achievements and distinctions, including his honorary degree from Temple University, are being erased. His legacy is being erased. If successful, Bill Cosby will be reduced to nothing more than a convicted sexual predator. His past and his celebrity status should not, however, be erased or forgotten. His honors should become a vehicle to display his sins and the sins of those like him.
Each and every reference to Cosby’s celebrity status should have an asterick beside them than constantly reminds the world that a highly influential, prominent members of society was brought to justice for sexual assault. It is the only way his conviction will help save future victims. Even though the accomplishments of sexual predators do not outweigh their wrongdoings, the recognition of a sexual predator’s accomplishments can easily overpower the pain of their victims. The impulse is, therefore, to erase the accomplishments to shine a light on the suffering. Unfortunately, forgetting and white washing history tends to silence the stories and suffering of victims. Imagine if the world decided Hitler’s impressive military buildup and victories over almost every European power were forgotten. The destruction of the second World War and the Holocaust might also be forgotten. The accomplishments of sexual predators need to be remembered alongside their crimes, so holding them accountable provides a powerful message.
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