Why This Woman Kept Silent About Being Sexually Abused by Bill Cosby - Until Now
Jewel Allison is one of many women to come forward with allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her. But what distinguishes her story is that her initial reluctance to share what happened to her has as much to do with race as the assault itself.
In a piece for the Washington Post, Allison, an African-American woman, explains that she was scared to come forward about the abuse she says she suffered at Cosby’s hands because of how her story would hurt black America.
"When I first heard Andrea Constand and Tamara Green publicly tell their stories about being drugged and assaulted by Cosby, I wasn’t relieved; I was terrified. I knew these women weren’t fabricating stories and conspiring to destroy America’s favorite dad, but I did not want to see yet another African American man vilified in the media. As I debated whether to come forward, I struggled with where my allegiances should lie—with the women who were sexually victimized or with black America, which had been systematically victimized. I called several friends for advice. While some encouraged me to speak out, others were cautious—even angry. One friend, an African American man, insisted I should stay quiet: 'You will be eaten alive, and for what? The black community is not going to support you.' It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I think it was his way of protecting me."
Allison went on to share the encounters she has had with black men and women who have expressed doubt over claims that “America’s favorite dad” could do such a thing. One black man asked her, “Sister, is it true?” She says the tone of his question was as if their father had died. “I’m sorry, brother, but it is true,” she replied. “Do not let this weaken you in any way.”
His words are ironic, given that when black men come forward with claims of police abuse, black women have always believed them. The brother she spoke with needs to scan through photos of Michael Brown and Eric Garner protests to see who is leading them: black women. I’m sure they didn’t ask themselves “Brother, is it true?” as they took tear gas to the face while marching in honor of Brown and Garner.
That Allison felt the need to protect a TV character is a sign of how black women are constantly underprotected from sexual assault and doubted when they talk about it. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, black women experience sexual assault at twice the rate of white women. Black Women’s Blueprint, a Brooklyn-based non-profit, reports that black women have a history of being sexually abused by police and state authorit that dates back to slavery.
We don’t have to look any further back than last year. Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, who is currently facing 32 counts of various charges for sexually assaulting at least 13 black women, was charged in August 2014. His story has since faded from mainstream coverage, but something tells me that if this officer raped 13 white women, we’d still be hearing about it.
The only real difference between Holtzclaw and Cosby is that the cop used his badge to abuse women, while Cosby used his celebrity to prey on women. I believe the women who accused Holtzclaw of sexually assaulting them, just as I believe Jewek Allison and the other women who say Cosby raped them. They are a vocal, visible minority of the tens of thousands of women who will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. Sixty-eight percent of women don’t report the sexual assault they endured and 98 percent of their assailants will never spend a day in jail. Given how crudely women are treated when they do speak up, it is unfortunately understandable why this is the case.
My heart goes out to all of the women, regardless of race, who have said Cosby sexually assaulted them, but I am especially troubled that Allison felt coming forward would let black America down. I’m sorry she felt pressure by so many in the black community not to speak her truth.
In doing so, we actually let her down.