I wrote the following a month ago, never knowing that Bill Cosby would be released a mere dozen days later.
I’ve never been a fan of Gloria Allred. It may be remnants of my father’s utter dislike for this brash, outspoken, opinionated woman. The fairer sex, he believed, belongs in the H. O. M. E. not marching with a sign that says, “N. O. W.” Of course, if Gloria was named Glen, my dad would see him as a “man’s man” and wholeheartedly embrace him. I’ve changed my tune about Gloria. I gained a new appreciation for Ms. Allred after recently watching the 2018 documentary, Seeing Allred. Is she loud? Is she brash? Is she a publicity hound? Yes, but perhaps she needs that persona to be heard above the din of the persistent, ever-present inequality in America. The Bill Cosby sexual abuse scandal takes up a fair portion of the documentary. What surprised me was the number of women who spoke up with similar stories and yet, when the first handful of victims came forward, the majority of Americans didn’t believe – “Oh no, not Bill Cosby, not Cliff Huxtable, not America’s dad.” “These women just want money or they’re actresses looking for publicity.” In the court of public opinion, these women were shredded for shining a light on something no one wanted to see. The tide didn’t seem to turn until dozens of women stepped forward, and, still, those women faced vicious attacks from disbelievers. It reminds me of the accusations regarding Michael Jackson in Finding Neverland. Michael still retains a huge, die-hard fan base, despite shockingly similar stories of sexual abuse from disparate victims. “We love you, Michael. We believe in you.” Fans need to understand that the public Michael Jackson isn’t the Michael behind closed doors. I believe the accusers – and you should, too.
If you perform a Google search, one of the top three definitions of sexual assault is, “an act in which one person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.” If you were to ask me if I’ve been sexually assaulted, I would answer, “Thankfully, no,” imagining date rape or a stranger jumping out from behind a tree, but the truer answer would be an ambiguous, “Maybe.”
I willingly entered Ted’s house. I happily drank wine with him, becoming a little tipsy – not incapacitatedly drunk, but tipsy…two or three glasses. I voluntarily joined him in his bedroom to fool around (his roommate was on the couch). Yet, I did not come over, nor was I prepared, to have sex that night. He had different plans. He tried to take our make-out session further, I rebuffed him. He attempted to take it further a second time, I rebuffed again, and again, and again. I never consented. Did he force me down and rip off my clothes? No, but I remember feeling like a 16-year-old Sophomore in a car’s back seat fighting off a hormone-fueled Senior’s attack – except I was 37; Ted was 41. He was bigger; he was stronger; he wasn’t letting up. I eventually acquiesced, tired of trying to redirect his energies. You are probably asking,
“You are a strong, independent woman. Why didn’t you just get up and leave?”
That is a legitimate question – and one I would ask if I was in your position. I will share my thoughts at the time. Are these excuses for my inaction? No, but they provide context, perspective. I didn’t leave because I thought I liked this man. I didn’t shove him away with force because I was attracted to this man. I didn’t jump up from the bed because I wanted to have sex with this man – but not yet, not that night. If I had jumped off the bed, screamed “stop” at the top of my lungs, grabbed my purse and ran out, I have no doubt he would have let me leave; he wouldn’t have pursued. He probably would have told his friends I was a crazy bitch, but he wouldn’t have brutalized me. Yet, doesn’t my “no” mean “no?” I never told a living soul this story until today, 18 years after the event.
Which reminds me of the time I went to my GP for my annual physical. I had been seeing this doctor for 8 years, believed him to be an excellent medical professional, and I trusted him. During my physical, he insisted on a pelvic exam. I assured him it was unnecessary because my OB/GYN performed a pelvic exam just six months prior – and all tests came back normal. Yet, with his medical “authority,” he dismissed my declination (the OB/GYN’s report was not in his notes) and pushed for the exam I didn’t want.
Are you once again asking, “You are a strong, independent woman. Why didn’t you get up and leave?”
That is a legitimate question – and one I would ask if I was in your position. I didn’t get up and leave because he was my doctor, an expert in a position of power. I didn’t firmly tell him, “Absofuckinglutely not,” because I had been in his care as a patient for eight years without incident. I rationalized, “why make a big deal about this – it’s not the first nor last pelvic I’ll endure.” I acquiesced. If I had jumped off the examining room table, screamed “stop” at the top of my lungs, grabbed my clothes and ran out, I have no doubt he would have allowed me to leave; he wouldn’t have blocked the exit. He probably would have told the nurses I was an overly sensitive, sexually-repressed woman, but he wouldn’t have forced me. He performed the pelvic exam…without a female nurse present – any woman knows that’s an odd and uncommon practice. The exam itself seemed routine. I couldn’t actually see what he was doing, but nothing overtly untoward felt like it was happening. Yet, afterwards, I felt violated. I did not give him my consent. Was this merely a case of an overzealous, egotistical doctor dismissing my declination of the exam in favor of his own medical decision – or something more perverse? I truly don’t know, but I left his office questioning the experience and feeling ashamed and invaded. For my next annual physical, I found a new doctor – a woman. I told her why I left my previous MD – said I didn’t know if his actions were malevolent or not, but I refused to be his patient any longer. Besides her, I never told another person until today.
Have I ever been sexually assaulted? What is your answer – because I truly don’t know? But, please, if someone (male or female) is brave enough to step forward with an accusation of abuse, sexual or otherwise, – listen to them, believe them. You weren’t in the room with them, you don’t know all sides of the person you are defending. The victim may have experienced a side of the abuser you’ve never seen. Mr. Wonderful, Bill Cosby, may not be so wonderful behind closed doors when there’s something he wants. “But what about the false claims of abuse that are just payback for something else altogether?” you ask. Do false sexual abuse accusations arise? Absolutely, but don’t assume the aberrant is the norm. Many easier and less humiliating methods of extracting payback exist. It takes courage to speak up and speak out. One must have thick skin to endure the disbelievers, the hostile opponents who will shout “liar” from their soapbox, turn their back on the victim. His friends will try to silence the victim insisting, even if it did happen, the victim should keep quiet, not rock the boat, just get over it. “How dare you speak out and sully the abuser’s reputation!” The victim is acutely aware they must go to battle and, even then, they may still not be believed. If it takes a victim 10, 20, 30 years to come forward to tell their story, to speak their truth, we must have compassion and understand that the event was not only traumatic, but confusing, embarrassing, and perhaps not clear cut. The abused often feels partially responsible; They may fear the retaliation from the abuser’s fans or cadre. The victim, however, can’t “just get over it.” They’ve carried the incident with them; They haven’t forgotten. They’ve been carefully weighing the benefits versus the damage speaking up will cause – lines will be drawn; sides will be taken. They’ve been physically and/or emotionally assaulted once; they don’t deserve to endure that again. I’m not suggesting we label every possible abuser, “guilty until proven innocent,” but also, we mustn’t insist that 20 victims come forward before we believe the first who was brave enough to say, “I was abused.”
Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs
This is my go-to appetizer to bring to a drinks party, nostalgic with a modern twist.
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
- 2 tablespoons drained pickle relish
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
- 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 dashes hot sauce, such as Tapitio
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled
- 2 slices cooked bacon, cut into 8 pieces each
- In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, celery, pickle relish, scallion, blue cheese, Dijon, hot sauce and black pepper to taste.
- Slice eggs in half and scoop yolks into mayonnaise mixture. Combine yolks and mayonnaise mixture with a folk until well blended.
- Using a large star tip nozzle, pipe mixture into egg halves. Decorate with bacon and serve.