On Saturday, news that the case of (widely) accused, serial sexual assaulter Bill Cosby had ended in an anticlimactic mistrial was a bit surprising. News that the jury presiding over his case had been deadlocked was shocking and revolting.
For some context, the Cosby trial was decades of speculations, muted accusations, and legal proceedings in the making. Over the course of decades, more than 50 women have accused the former comedian of drugging and assaulting them.
His lawyers’ best defenses of Cosby have been the pathetically deceitful suggestions that date rape drugs were some sort of fashionable sex trend in Cosby’s day, and that he was romantically involved with these women — as if, were this to be true, this romantic involvement would sweepingly negate any possibility of misconduct. Someone please tell these lawyers that marital rape is, in fact, a thing, and a thing that happens every day, at that.
And, ultimately, this defense should have been nothing in the face of Cosby’s own admission to having given women Quaaludes before having sex with (read: assaulting) them in a 2005 deposition.
But take a step back, think about recent events, and maybe the jury’s deadlock in the face of all of this evidence is, indeed, revolting — but not quite shocking.
Just months ago, we elected President a man who, on top of facing a slew of sexual abuse allegations from women with no credible motive to lie, in a 2005 audio tape boasted about “grabbing [women] by the p-say” with or without their consent. Donald Trump immediately apologized for his lewdness, his boyish “locker room talk” that supposedly all men can relate to, but ultimately refused to acknowledge what nonconsensually grabbing a woman by her genitalia truly is: sexual assault.
And in the face of the accusations that surfaced against him by women who courageously believed that with such a tape having come to light, perhaps they would be believed, perhaps they no longer had to bite their tongues, Trump’s best defense was that these women weren’t attractive enough for him to want to violate them. And just as some half of Cosby’s jurors believed Cosby’s defense, Trump’s base not only believed Trump, but proceeded to elect him.
In both cases, despite admitting on the record to committing sexual assault — albeit without acknowledging that their actions equate to assault — both men have yet to face any consequences.
It’s worth noting that in 2015, pollsters found a shocking amount of men, while refusing to admit to sexually coercive behavior outright, will admit to sexually assaulting women without realizing they’ve admitted to it, when asked if they’ve performed or would perform certain deeds. Clearly, lots of men don’t even realize what rape and sexual assault are.
Amidst all this ignorance, no wonder we continue over and over again to fail women who are brave enough to come forward, knowing full well the stigma, doubt, blame, attacks on their character and, of course, the slut-shaming they will face. No wonder we continue to tell them that when it’s their word against a man’s, we will always believe the man.
The case of convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner similarly exemplifies this systemic injustice. Despite confessing to rape outright and having witnesses to this, his victim’s experiences were still treated with shocking dismissiveness through his minimal sentence.
In this case, the survivor’s narrative, evidence, and circumstances were as perfect as all survivors’ are unfairly required to be. And she was believed, yes, but told by the county judge that her experiences were trivial, inconsequential — that they merited her assailant spending just months in county jail as justice.
Ultimately, the election of Donald Trump paved the way to the Cosby trial’s appalling initial results.
On Nov. 8, we affirmed that you can say and perhaps even do all of those things, and not only face no consequences, but still rise to power. How could we be surprised, then, when on top of having dozens upon dozens of women accusing him, Cosby in his own words admitted to assaulting these women, but still, for the moment, faces no consequences?
As Maria Bustillos at Death and Taxes put it earlier this month, “Sex crime defendants routinely resort to the cliché, ‘he said, she said,’ and Bill Cosby is no exception.” But no matter how Cosby tries to spin it, his case isn’t just another “he said, she said” — it’s a “he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, etc.”
Prior to this case, we always knew that we live in a society that is still influenced by rape culture to the extent that a jury might believe one man over one woman. But now we also know we live in a society in which at least some half of a jury will believe one man over nearly 50 women.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.