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'No longer afraid': The only story about Bill Cosby you need to read.

If you’re unequivocal about the charges Bill Cosby is now facing after being arrested you need to read this.

It’s a brilliant, and now iconic, feature that tells a compelling and uncomfortable tale about men, women, sexual assault and power.

Bill Cosby is the protagonist but this story resonates beyond Hollywood. It reveals a toxic truth that pervades rape regardless of where it takes place: we are more inclined to believe men who are accused of rape than we are the victims of this crime.

The most shocking thing is not that Bill Cosby has been accused of raping and sexually assaulting dozens and dozens of women. Far more shocking, is that it took decades and decades for anyone to listen to these women, let alone believe them.

In July this year the New York Magazine shot a cover with 35 women sitting in chairs staring down the lens. These women shared an unfortunate fate. They were all victims of sexual assault at the hands of America’s erstwhile favourite comedian. One chair remained empty, a nod to the fact other victims exist.

Some of the 35 women were raped, almost all were drugged, and all of them struggled to be heard.

This year that finally changed. The fact the New York magazine feature was commissioned and published at all is proof of it. A decade earlier, in 2004, several major publications scrapped planned features with the stories from victims and instead ran exclusives telling Cosby’s side of the story.

The New York headline says it all. ‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen.

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The comedian Hannibal Buress, who effectively set Cosby’s trajectory towards accountability into motion by speaking out, said his image was “public Teflon” despite years and years of mounting accusations.

He asked audiences: “How is this upsetting shit okay?”

It’s not. Raping, drugging and assaulting women is never okay. It wasn’t okay then and it’s not okay now.

There is little we can do to change what has already happened. We cannot step back in time and force Cosby’s victims to speak up before they were ready. We cannot reverse the clock to change the collective response to a man so many of us loved. We cannot, in hindsight, make people believe what they didn’t want to believe.

But we can read these women’s stories and we can take them on.

It is alleged that Cosby told some of his victims: No one would believe you. So why speak up?

He was right and for a long long time they didn’t speak up. Those who did, weren’t believed. They were greeted with sceptism and suspicion.

That is something all of us need to consider. How do we contribute to a culture that doesn’t listen to victims? How do we contribute to a culture that is more willing to believe a man accused of rape, than we are dozens and dozens of women who share the same story of the same crime?

And how can we stop it? That is the question we must answer.

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