The allegations facing American television star Bill Cosby – that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman, Andrea Constand, in 2004 – are just that. Allegations.
We’ll know soon enough whether or not they’re true – a Pennsylvania jury has retired to consider three sexual assault charges against the 79-year-old. Each carries a sentence of up to 10 years if proven.
Even so, one of the most shocking aspects of the case is that so many women have leveled almost identical allegations against Cosby that no-one appears to know the actual number of victims who have come forward.
Not how many alleged victims there are, but how many have actually already gone public.
The ABC this morning is reporting “more than 60”. So are most media outlets. The official Wikipedia page – yes, the allegations themselves have their own Wikipedia page – list 59. Forty-three of those alleged assaults involved drugging. Twenty-five involve specific allegations of rape, and two involve alleged child sexual abuse against girls aged 15.
Whatever the true number, the most recent assault is alleged to have occurred in 2008, at the Playboy Mansion, by a woman called Chloe Goins. That allegedly occurred several years after People magazine wrote a major feature documenting allegations against Cosby by a host of women, including Andrea Constand, the victim at the centre of the criminal case Cosby is now facing (Constand sued him civilly in 2006).
And yet Cosby continued on with massive corporate endorsements from the likes of Coca-Cola for almost another decade.
The earliest allegation against Cosby is from December 1965, by a woman named Kristina Ruehli. Like others, Ruehli claims Cosby drugged and assaulted her.
To give you some kind of perspective, that almost four years before humans landed on the moon, and two years before Israel invaded Palestine. Robert Menzies – who died almost four decades ago – was still the Australian Prime Minister.
The point being these are very, very old allegations, and that’s perhaps what is most stunning about this issue. How did Cosby escape scrutiny – media and police – for so long?
The first allegation we know of were made in the 1980s, by a woman called Joan Tarshis. She told her story to a reporter, who apparently declined to publish it.
Victoria Valentino detailed allegations of a rape in a video-taped interview in 1996. Lachele Covington reported an alleged rape to the NYPD in 200o (no charges were filed). Supermodel Janice Dickinson detailed allegations of rape in her 2002 autobiography, but they were removed by her publisher.
Playboy finally published their allegations in 2006.
But it wasn’t until this video below by fellow black comedian Hannibal Buress went viral in 2014 that public consciousness really began to rise.
Which begs the point to be made: there’s a lot wrong with social media – it’s a toxic cesspool much of the time. But it was social media that blew the whistle on Cosby. Establishment media (with the ironic exception of Playboy and a few others) failed to do its job.
In any event, Cosby now has his day in court. He declined to take the stand, and called just one witness in his defence – a detective, whose testimony lasted just six minutes.
He’s facing up to 30 years if convicted. The jury retired to consider their verdict this morning, and have been sent home overnight.
Deliberations continue tomorrow.