I have been thinking a lot about Woody Allen lately, like many of you I am sure. One of the strangest things about the case, in all its horrifying glory, is the sheer number of us who simply were not aware of the accusations. Today, I became aware the one of my favorite childhood comedians, Bill Cosby, was accused of rape, as well. In a piece on Kotaku, Tom Scocca briefs readers on the case of Cosby, who was accused by multiple women in the mid-2000s of sexual assault. Scocca states, “Anyone who didn’t think about it before now had chosen not to think about it.” Over here, in my brain, I have been thinking the exact opposite.
How couldn’t I have known? I keep asking myself. I’m a survivor, for fuck’s sake, I’m supposed to know these things about people.
My first instinct was to blame my ignorance on my age; I am, after all, 24 and Woody Allen’s alleged assault and its initial aftermath took place in 1992 when I was just three years old. As for Bill Cosby, I am honestly unsure of how I didn’t know because I was in my teen years during the mid-2000s and cannot understand how I could have possibly missed that. Here is an excerpt of the lawsuit against Cosby, wherein the plaintiff stated that Cosby offered her pills to help her “relax”:
When Plaintiff advised Defendant she did not feel well, Defendant led Plaintiff to a sofa, because she could not walk on her own, where he laid her down, under the guise of “helping” her.
Subsequently, Defendant positioned himself behind Plaintiff on the sofa, touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated her.
Plaintiff remained in a semi-conscious state throughout the time of this ordeal.
At no time was Plaintiff capable of consent after the pills affected her, and at no time did she consent to Defendant’s acts.
I really, truly did not know any of this, nor did I have any idea that 13 other women were reported as accusers and four spoke publicly, using their own names, to media outlets regarding Cosby’s abuse.
And I had no idea. And here, since becoming a survivor, for lack of a better term, I have attempted to cope with my experiences by priding myself on “knowing better.” Yet I was laughing at Cosby’s jokes through standup specials and reruns for the better part of my childhood and teenage years, repeating the High Fidelity “Cossssby sweater!” line over and over.
The problem with rape culture is that it has the tendency to bury things. It swallows them up whole and spits them out in half-truths. He was dismissed, it says, there was no DNA, there were no bruises. I know this because I was left without bruises in more than one incident. I never went to the police, in any case, because I already knew what happens to people who pursue these things, what happens to the thousands of rape kits left untested and ignored. Rape culture is a quiet damper to any flame ever lit inside you, so you put yourself out before anybody else has the chance to.
I get that many people are capable of looking past the morality, transgressions and mistakes of great artists who produced great art. Being likable isn’t everything, after all, and I cannot imagine a world wherein everyone decent also needs to be likable. But so many of my friends, or sort-of friends whom I’ve at some point added on Facebook, have been posting that horrible Daily Beast piece and saying things along the lines of, “We can’t really know if he did this, and even if he did, we shouldn’t stop talking about his work.” I get that and that’s fine for them, though it has become very difficult for me to want to talk to them as a result, but I can’t separate myself from these things.
I do not speak for all survivors by any means, nor would I ever claim to. We’re all individual humans with experiences that, while categorized in the same categories, vastly differ from one another. That said, I think it is different for non-survivors to look at work by a man accused of rape and think, Yes, this is good, this is nice, I can learn from this. For me personally, I see Mike Tyson and Roman Polanski and Woody Allen’s work and get looped into one thought: This is a reward, this is a reward, stop applauding, you’re rewarding them.
I was hurt by somebody who was very good at something. I would detail further, but it makes me sick and writing out more details will benefit nobody. And still, to this day, he does the things he is very good at. He has a girlfriend. He has a home. My brain is still broken at times, but he seems very happy and I have accepted that because that was the best thing for me to do. That said, I would never want to be anywhere near the things he does, no matter how good they are; I would rather burn off all of my fingertips and lose that part of my identity sooner than lose the part that knows better than to attempt healing by immersion therapy.
For the record, I am not saying that Bill Cosby and Woody Allen are guilty. Just as everyone on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and every film class ever are saying, “nobody knows for sure.” But I do believe they are guilty, and I will never hide that I am biased towards believing victims.
I did not cry much in the past few days; I mostly just became spontaneously enraged and would shake in bed, hearing instant replays of things people were saying about it as well as things people said to me when I was assaulted. The interesting thing about triggers is that they often come from issues most important to your heart; for many survivors, the desire to denounce rapists and rape culture is strong–stronger, often, than the desire to avoid re-traumatization. I am not saying I am brave because I write about this stuff; I’m actually very lucky to have an outlet where I can examine my emotions toward Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Sean Penn, DSK, Chris Brown, and innumerable others, then hear how others have felt about the same issues and humans.
I think we are lucky to now have the Internet, because while it is littered with ragebait pieces and awful people and enjoyable cat photos, it is also a place where we find out things we did not know. I am glad I now know, though I still am displeased with myself for not having known prior. I am trying to be less angry at myself, and certainly not angry at all at anyone else, for not having known. Still–it is impossible to not judge people on how they react once they do.