That’s a good question, actually, and after telling her story for 30 years, Barbara Bowman — who detailed her account again two weeks ago of the years and rape and abuse she suffered at the hands of Bill Cosby — is understandably annoyed that it took something like a stand-up comedian’s act to get people to finally believe her. As well she should be. At the time, she told her agent, who ignored her, and she told a lawyer, who wouldn’t believe her, and she’s been repeating the accusations for years, but no one would really listen.
That is, until Hannibal Buress outed Cosby (again) and transformed those allegations into a viral sensation that culminated in a series of Bill Cosby memes that will probably end the 77-year-old’s career (as well it should).
But Bowman still wonders why it took a man to make people listen to her.
Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’s performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.
While I am grateful for the new attention to Cosby’s crimes, I must ask my own questions: Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?
I have no good answers, although I don’t think people began listening simply because Buress is a man. I think it also has something to do with the fact that Buress re-introduced these allegations to a new generation, a new generation that is less willing to sweep allegations like these under the table, a new generation that is less prone to victim blaming, and a new generation that uses the power of the Internet to shame people for their horrible misdeeds.
To its credit, this is a generation that can, and often does, use the Internet to complete the jobs that the police and lawyers are not often will to complete (sometimes, to the detriment of the situation).
All I can say is: We didn’t know. We didn’t know because Bill Cosby and the men in the generation before us worked so hard to keep it from us. But now we know, and you can trust that the people of this generation will do all we can to keep monsters like Bill Cosby from ever working again. It may not be the justice that he deserves, which is a lifetime in prison, but at least we can shame the man out of public consciousness.
We’re just sorry it took us so long.