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‘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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Unresolved Traumahttp://nymag.com/thecut/2015/07/bill-cosbys-accusers-speak-out.html?mid=fb-share-thecut

By Noreen Malone and Portfolio By Amanda Demme

More has changed in the past few years for women who allege rape than in all the decades since the women’s movement began. Consider the evidence of October 2014, when an audience member at a Hannibal Buress show in Philadelphia uploaded a clip of the comedian talking about Bill Cosby: “He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people … I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches … I guess I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns. Dude’s image, for the most part, it’s fucking public Teflon image. I’ve done this bit onstage and people think I’m making it up … That shit is upsetting.” The bit went viral swiftly, with irreversible, calamitous consequences for Cosby’s reputation.

Perhaps the most shocking thing wasn’t that Buress had called Cosby a rapist; it was that the world had actually heard him. A decade earlier, 14 women had accused Cosby of rape. In 2005, a former basketball star named Andrea Constand, who met Cosby when she was working in the athletic department at Temple University, where he served on the board of trustees, alleged to authorities that he had drugged her to a state of semi-consciousness and then groped and digitally penetrated her. After her allegations were made public, a California lawyer named Tamara Green appeared on the Today show and said that, 30 years earlier, Cosby had drugged and assaulted her as well. Eventually, 12 Jane Does signed up to tell their own stories of being assaulted by Cosby in support of Constand’s case. Several of them eventually made their names public. But they were met, mostly, with skepticism, threats, and attacks on their character.
In Cosby’s deposition for the Constand case, revealed to the public just last week, the comedian admitted pursuing sex with young women with the aid of Quaaludes, which can render a person functionally immobile. “I used them,” he said, “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink.’ ” He asked a modeling agent to connect him with young women who were new in town and “financially not doing well.” In the deposition, Cosby seemed confident that his behavior did not constitute rape; he apparently saw little difference between buying someone dinner in pursuit of sex and drugging them to reach the same goal. As for consent, he said, “I think that I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things.” If these women agreed to meet up, his deposition suggested, he felt that he had a right to them. And part of what took the accusations against Cosby so long to surface is that this belief extended to many of the women themselves (as well as the staff and lawyers and friends and others who helped keep the incidents secret).

Months after his depositions, Cosby settled the case with Constand. The accusations quickly faded from the public’s memory, if they registered at all. No one wanted to believe the TV dad in a cardigan was capable of such things, and so they didn’t. The National Enquirer had planned to run a big story detailing one of the women’s accounts, but the magazine pulled it when Cosby agreed to give them a two-page exclusive telling his side (essentially that these were instances that had been “misinterpreted”). People ran a story alleging that several of the women had taken money in exchange for their silence, implying that this was nothing more than an elaborate shakedown. Cosby’s career rolled on: In 2014 alone, there was a stand-up special, plans for a new family comedy on NBC, and a high-profile biography by Mark Whitaker that glossed over the accusations.

The group of women Cosby allegedly assaulted functions almost as a longitudinal study — both for how an individual woman, on her own, deals with such trauma over the decades and for how the culture at large has grappled with rape over the same time period. In the ’60s, when the first alleged assault by Cosby occurred, rape was considered to be something violent committed by a stranger; acquaintance rape didn’t register as such, even for the women experiencing it. A few of Cosby’s accusers claim that he molested or raped them multiple times; one remained in his orbit, in and out of a drugged state, for years. In the ’70s and ’80s, campus movements like Take Back the Night and “No Means No” helped raise awareness of the reality that 80 to 90 percent of victims know their attacker. Still, the culture of silence and shame lingered, especially when the men accused had any kind of status. The first assumption was that women who accused famous men were after money or attention. As Cosby allegedly told some of his victims: No one would believe you. So why speak up?

Read her story
PATRICIA LEARY STEUER,59. Alleged assaults: 1978 and 1980.
But among younger women, and particularly online, there is a strong sense now that speaking up is the only thing to do, that a woman claiming her own victimhood is more powerful than any other weapon in the fight against rape. Emma Sulkowicz, carrying her mattress around Columbia in a performance-art protest of her alleged rape, is an extreme practitioner of this idea. This is a generation that’s been radicalized, in just the past few years, by horrific examples of rape and reactions to rape — like the 2012 Steubenville incident, in which high-school football players brutally violated a passed-out teenage girl at a party and photographed and braggingly circulated the evidence. That same year, when a 14-year-old Missouri cheerleader accused a popular older boy at her school of sexual assault, her classmates shamed her on social media and the family’s house was burned down. The whole world watched online. How could this kind of thing still be happening? These cases felt unignorable, unforgettable, Old Testament biblical. Would anyone have believed the girls, or cared, had the evidence not been digitizable? And: How could you be a young woman and not care deeply about trying to fix this?

This generation will probably be further galvanized by the allegations that a national cultural icon may have been allowed to drug and rape women for decades, with no repercussions. But these younger women have given something to Cosby’s accusers as well: a model for how to speak up, and a megaphone in the form of social media.

Facebook and Twitter, the forums that helped circulate the Buress clip, were full of rage at Cosby’s perceived cruelty. Barbara Bowman, who’d come forward during the Constand case, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about her frustration that no one had believed her for all those years. Three days after Bowman’s op-ed, another woman, Joan Tarshis, came forward to say Cosby had drugged and raped her in 1969. By the end of November, 16 more women had come forward. Cosby resigned from Temple’s board of trustees and sought monetary damages from one of his accusers; he also told “Page Six” that he wanted “the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism [and] go in with a neutral mind.” (Cosby, through representatives, has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and hasn’t been charged with any crimes. Emails to four of his lawyers and press reps went unanswered, although his team has begun a media tour to deny that his admission of offering Quaaludes to women was tantamount to admitting he’d raped anyone.) By February, there were another 12 accusers. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked about it at the Golden Globes: “Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.” Attorney Gloria Allred got involved, representing more than a dozen of the women. Even President Obama said it was clear to him: “If you give a woman — or a man, for that matter — without his or her knowledge a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape.”

There are now 46 women who have come forward publicly to accuse Cosby of rape or sexual assault; the 35 women here are the accusers who were willing to be photographed and interviewed by New York. The group, at present, ranges in age from early 20s to 80 and includes supermodels Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson alongside waitresses and Playboy bunnies and journalists and a host of women who formerly worked in show business. Many of the women say they know of others still out there who’ve chosen to remain silent.

MARCELLA TATE,
67. Alleged assault: 1975.

LINDA JOY TRAITZ,
64. Alleged assault: 1969.

LINDA KIRKPATRICK,
58. Alleged assault: 1981.

LINDA BROWN,
67. Alleged assault: 1969.

KAYA THOMPSON,
44. Alleged assault: late 1980s.

TAMARA GREEN.
Alleged assault: early 1970s.
This project began six months ago, when we started contacting the then-30 women who had publicly claimed Cosby assaulted them, and it snowballed in the same way that the initial accusations did: First two women signed on, then others heard about it and joined in, and so on. Just a few days before the story was published, we photographed the final two women, bringing our total to 35. “I’m no longer afraid,” said Chelan Lasha, who came forward late last year to say that Cosby had drugged her when she was 17. “I feel more powerful than him.”

Accompanying this photo essay is a compilation of the interviews with these women, a record of trauma and survival — the memories that remain of the decades-old incidents. All 35 were interviewed separately, and yet their stories have remarkable similarities, in everything from their descriptions of the incidents to the way they felt in the aftermath. Each story is awful in its own right. But the horror is multiplied by the sheer volume of seeing them together, reading them together, considering their shared experience. The women have found solace in their number — discovering that they hadn’t been alone, that there were others out there who believed them implicitly, with whom they didn’t need to be afraid of sharing the darkest details of their lives. They are scattered all over the country — ten different states are represented — and most of them had no contact with their fellow accusers until recently. But since reading about each other’s stories in the news, or finding one another on social media, or meeting in person at the photo shoots arranged by New York, many of the women have forged a bond. It is, as Tarshis calls it, “a sorrowful sisterhood.” ■

Testimony
THE INCIDENTS

“My agent said we’ve been contacted by a really, really big person in the entertainment industry who’s interested in mentoring promising young talent. I find out it’s Bill Cosby. I had the understanding I was going to be receiving private acting coaching from him. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. A driver would pick me up, my agent was paying for it. That made it all very, very professional. The door opens, and there stands Cosby. He’s in his sweats and very casual, very friendly. I had a monologue prepared. He seemed unimpressed. He said, ‘Let’s try a cold read,’ so he pulls out a script. The scene was set in a bar; the character was someone who was inebriated. He poured a glass of white wine. And he said, use this as a prop — now, that means you’re going to have to sip on it, of course. I really don’t remember much, except waking up in his bedroom. He was naked, and he was forcing himself into my mouth.” —Heidi Thomas

“I was introduced to Bill Cosby through my modeling agent. She said that Cosby wanted to see me. Which I thought was obviously for the show. I was told there was going to be a dinner, and when I got there, no one ever arrived. He asked me if I wanted a glass of wine; I took a few sips. It had a horrible taste. And I started not feeling well. He helped me up by my underarms with both hands. He walked me into the next room, where there was a mirror on the wall, and he told me to look at myself. Something was wrong with me. And then he took my right hand, and he put it behind my back. I remember seeing semen on the floor. And I felt some liquid on my hand. That was when I knew something sexual was going on.” —Jewel Allison

“He took my roommate and me out to dinner. It was this new hip steak restaurant on the strip near the Whiskey a Go Go called Sneaky Pete’s. He was chatting her up and trying to charm her. And he reached across and put a pill next to my wineglass and said, ‘Here, this will make you feel better,’ and he gave her one. I wasn’t really thinking. My son had recently died. I thought, Great, me feel better? You bet. So I took the pill and washed it down with some red wine. And then he reached across and put another pill in my mouth and gave her one. Just after I took the second pill, my face was, like, face-in-plate syndrome, and I just said, ‘I wanna go home.’ He said he would drive us home. We went up this elevator. I sat down, and lay my head back, just fighting nausea. I looked around and he was sitting next to my roommate on the love seat with this very predatory look on his face. She was completely unconscious. I could hear the words in my head, but I couldn’t form words with my mouth, because I was so drugged out. He got up and came over, and he sat down and unzipped his fly. He had me give him oral sex, and then he stood me up, turned me over, did me doggy style, and walked out. Just as he got to the door, I said, ‘How do we get out of here, how do we get home?’ And he said, ‘Call a cab.’ ” —Victoria Valentino

SUNNI WELLES,66. Alleged assaults: mid-1960s.

THERESE SERIGNESE,58. Alleged assault: 1976.

BETH FERRIER,56. Alleged assault: mid-1980s.

CARLA FERRIGNO. Alleged assault: 1967.
“Bill had been a friend. I had had dinner with his wife on one or two different occasions, I had worked with him, I had known him for many, many years, and he never made a pass at me. So when this happened to me, I was really, really shocked. I just couldn’t understand what was wrong with him. Had he lost his mind? When I came out of the bathroom, he said to me, ‘Okay, come on, let’s go. They’re waiting for us.’ He was behaving like a person that I had never met before in my life.” —Kathy McKee

“At 17, my agent introduced me to Bill Cosby, who was going to mentor me and take me to the next level of my career. Over the course of the next year, I was drugged half the time when I was with him and would come out of a delusional experience going, ‘Whoa, what was that?’ He would say, ‘Well, I needed to undress you and wash your clothes because you got drunk and made a fool of yourself.’ Do you remember the Jaycee Dugard story? She pretty much could have climbed over the fence any time she wanted to but was just so broken down and couldn’t think straight. I felt like a prisoner; I felt I was kidnapped and hiding in plain sight. I could have walked down any street of Manhattan at any time and said, ‘I’m being raped and drugged by Bill Cosby,’ but who the hell would have believed me? Nobody, nobody. I was invited down to Atlantic City to see his show and had a very confusing night where I was completely drugged and my luggage was missing. When I called the concierge to find out where my luggage was, Cosby went ballistic. He slammed the phone down and said, ‘What the hell are you doing, letting the whole hotel know I have a 19-year-old girl in my hotel suite?’ The next morning, he summoned me down to his room and yelled at me that I needed to have discretion. He threw me down on the bed and he put his forearm under my throat. He straddled me, and he took his belt buckle off. The clanking of the belt buckle, I’ll never forget.” —Barbara Bowman

JANICE DICKINSON,60. Alleged assault: 1982.

“I had a terrible headache, and I said, ‘Bill, do you have some Tylenol? I have a mother of a headache.’ And he said to me, ‘I have something stronger.’ And I said, ‘You know I don’t do drugs.’ He said, ‘You’re one of my best friends. Would I hurt you?’ And I believed him. All I remember is taking the pill; I don’t remember going to bed. But I do remember waking up in a fog and opening my eyes, and I had no clothes on, and there was Bill’s friend totally naked in bed with me. He started to laugh and smile, and he said, ‘Oh, did you have a good time?’ I said, ‘What the fuck happened? Do you always eff a dead person?’ I got my clothes on and I walked out. And Bill said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘What the eff did you give me?’ He said, ‘Oh, you had a bad headache, you were in so much pain. I gave you a Quaalude.’ I was hurt with Bill more than angry at his friend. Bill let him take advantage of me. That kills me. That’s why I know the stories of what he did to the other women are true, because if he didn’t have the respect for me, who was really a close friend, then he could do that to anybody he didn’t know very well.” —Joyce Emmons

LOUISA MORITZ,69. Alleged assault: 1971.

KACEY(name has been changed). Alleged assault: 1996.
THE AFTERMATH

“I told my supervisor at the Playboy Club what he did to me, and you know what she said to me? She said: ‘You do know that that’s Hefner’s best friend, right?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She says to me: ‘Nobody’s going to believe you. I suggest you shut your mouth.’ ” —PJ Masten

“People often these days say, ‘Well, why didn’t you take it to the police?’ Andrea Constand went to the police in 2005 — how’d it work out for her? Not at all. In 2005, Bill Cosby still had control of the media. In 2015, we have social media. We can’t be disappeared. It’s online and can never go away.” —Tamara Green

CHELAN LASHA,46. Alleged assault: 1986.
“I had a few moments where I tried to come forward. But I was just too scared, and I also had the extra burden of not really wanting to take an African-American man down.” —Jewel Allison

“I didn’t realize that I had been raped. Back then, rape was done in an alleyway with somebody holding a knife to your throat that you didn’t know. There was no date rape back then. I just knew that something horrible had happened. But I couldn’t put a name to it. The difference between this and that rape in the dark alley is that his face would be before me every week on TV. People would mention a joke that he said: ‘Wasn’t that funny?’ And all the while, my stomach would just be churning.” —Joan Tarshis

“In 1975, it wasn’t an issue that was even discussed. Rape was being beaten up in a park. I understood at the time that it was wrong, but I just internalized it and dealt with it and pushed it down, and it resided in a very private place. It affects your trust with other people.” —Marcella Tate

HELEN HAYES,
80. Alleged assault: 1973.

HEIDI THOMAS,
55. Alleged assault: 1984.

PJ MASTEN,
65. Alleged assault: 1979.

SARITA BUTTERFIELD,
59. Alleged assault: 1977.

JANICE BAKER-KINNEY,
57. Alleged assault: 1982.

AUTUMN BURNS,
68. Alleged assault: circa 1970.

“Survivors of rape have a very difficult time having intimate relationships. I was in my 20s. I could never have a real relationship. It was like a black, disgusting tumor—a secret tumor.” —PJ Masten

“When I see a Jell-O pudding, it comes flooding back. Bill Cosby, that encounter, that one time, played a major factor in the direction my life took, toward the dark side.” —Sammie Mays

“Eighteen is very young. It took me a long, long time to come to terms with the fact that it was him, it wasn’t me. Life has not been easy for me. I had addiction problems as I got older.” —Linda Joy Traitz

“People go, ‘Why haven’t you gotten over it?’ But you might as well ask a combat soldier why he doesn’t forget the Battle of Guadalcanal. There was someone trying to harm him, someone trying to kill him, and they never get over it, they just learn how to cope with it.” —Tamara Green

LILI BERNARD. Alleged assault: early 1990s.
THE AVALANCHE

“I read Barbara Bowman’s piece in the Washington Post, how no one believed her, and I said, ‘This is it. I have to say something now. I have to stand up and say, Yes. Somebody else does believe you, because it happened to me.’ It was sort of like we were yodeling in a canyon and set off an avalanche. I knew I wasn’t ever gonna receive any money. I certainly didn’t want to be remembered as the woman that Bill Cosby raped. But I just felt so vindicated that I wasn’t alone.” —Joan Tarshis

“How would it benefit any of us? It doesn’t. We’re telling the story because we can’t hold it inside anymore.” —Kathy McKee

“I came forward to offer my support as a witness. I knew my statute of limitations had run out. When only one or two women came out, a couple of years ago, they were ridiculed more. It’s hard to not believe the numbers now.” —Janice Baker-Kinney

BARBARA BOWMAN,
48. Alleged assaults: 1985–1987.

SAMMIE MAYS,
57. Alleged assault: 1987.

JOAN TARSHIS,
67. Alleged assault: 1969.

MARGIE SHAPIRO,
58. Alleged assault: 1975.

JOYCE EMMONS,
70. Alleged assault: circa 1979.

REBECCA LYNN NEAL,
60. Alleged assault: 1986.

“I went online one morning, just to check my email. The Yahoo page came up, and there was something about Cosby, this thing with Hannibal Buress. And all of a sudden, something just hit me. Anger. Son of a bitch! You know, a woman can be not believed for 30 years. But it takes one man? To make a joke about it? That fucking pissed me off so bad. Suddenly I’m thinking, Who do I contact?” —Victoria Valentino

“I have a friend who is a detective for a police department. She’s the one who pushed me to file a report. My husband was like, ‘No, I don’t want anybody to know, we don’t want to expose you, I don’t want people saying bad things.’ But my friend said, ‘You gotta do it for you.’ ” —Lise-Lotte Lublin

“I saw that there were a lot of negative responses being posted against Barbara Bowman and Joan Tarshis and Tamara Green and Andrea Constand, grouping them in a historical reference to claims that “white women” have made in the past, that weren’t truthful, about being raped by a black man. But unfortunately with this case, I knew that there was a very strong possibility that these women were telling the truth, because I had had my own negative experience with Bill Cosby. And so I just felt like, No, this can’t go in that direction.”—Jewel Allison

“The part of it I wasn’t prepared for was the onslaught of women that have been assaulted and them telling me their story because I told mine.” —Beverly Johnson

“I started getting private messages on Facebook from other former Bunnies: ‘He did me too, PJ. He got me too.’ There’s a couple of websites — ‘We believe the women’ — and Cosby sites that we all created. And we talk, all the survivors. We just had the photo shoot. And I said it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. It was fun. We had great music, great food, we were all dancing and laughing, and yet in L.A., the L.A. group said it was so somber, and everybody was upset. And I said, ‘What, are you kidding? We were celebrating here in New York, baby.’ Our freedom, our freedom! Nothing macabre about that. We’re out.” —PJ Masten

KATHY MCKEE,66. Alleged assault: early 1970s.
“Listen, he was America’s favorite dad. I went into this thinking he was going to be my dad. To wake up half-dressed and raped by the man that said he was going to love me like a father? That’s pretty sick. It was hard for America to digest when this came out. And a lot of backlash and a lot denial and a lot of anger.” —Barbara Bowman

“I think his legacy is going to be similar to O.J.’s legacy. When you hear O.  J. Simpson’s name, you don’t think, Oh, great football player. That doesn’t come to mind first. I’m thinking it’s not going to be, Oh, great comedian. It’s going to be, Oh, serial rapist. And that will be our legacy.” —Joan Tarshis

Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

July 28, 2015 at 7:06 am

Bill Cosby Drugged Me. This Is My Story./ Vanity Fair

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http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/12/bill-cosby-beverly-johnson-story#

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.10.49 PM

Like most Americans, I spent the 60s, 70s, and part of the 80s in awe of Bill Cosby and his total domination of popular culture. He was the first African American to star in a dramatic television series, I Spy, a show my family in Buffalo, New York, always watched. Cosby cut a striking figure on-screen then. He was funny, smart, and even elegant—all those wonderful things many white Americans didn’t associate with people of color. In fact, as I thought of going public with what follows, a voice in my head kept whispering, “Black men have enough enemies out there already, they certainly don’t need someone like you, an African American with a familiar face and a famous name, fanning the flames.”

Imagine my joy in the mid-80s when an agent called to say Bill Cosby wanted me to audition for a role on the The Cosby Show. Cosby played an obstetrician, and he sometimes used models to portray pregnant women sitting in his office waiting room. It was a small part with one or two speaking lines at most, but I wanted in.

I was in the midst of an ugly custody battle for my only child. I needed a big break badly and appearing on The Cosby Show seemed like an excellent way of getting Hollywood’s attention. I’d appeared in one or two movies already, but my phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook with acting jobs.

Cosby’s handlers invited me to a taping of the show so I could get the lay of the land and an idea of what my role required. After the taping I met all the cast and then met with Cosby in his office to talk a bit about the hell I’d been through in my marriage. He appeared concerned and then asked what I wanted from my career going forward. He seemed genuinely interested in guiding me to the next level. I was on cloud nine.

I brought my daughter to the next taping I attended. Afterward, Cosby asked if I could meet him at his home that weekend to read for the part. My ex-husband had primary custody of my daughter at the time, and I usually spent my weekends with her. Cosby suggested I bring her along, which really reeled me in. He was the Jell-O Pudding man; like most kids, my daughter loved him. When my daughter and I visited Cosby’s New York brownstone, his staff served us a delicious brunch. Then he gave us a tour of the exceptional multi-level home.
Looking back, that first invite from Cosby to his home seems like part of a perfectly laid out plan, a way to make me feel secure with him at all times. It worked like a charm. Cosby suggested I come back to his house a few days later to read for the part. I agreed, and one late afternoon the following week I returned. His staff served a light dinner and Bill and I talked more about my plans for the future.

After the meal, we walked upstairs to a huge living area of his home that featured a massive bar. A huge brass espresso contraption took up half the counter. At the time, it seemed rare for someone to have such a machine in his home for personal use.

Cosby said he wanted to see how I handled various scenes, so he suggested that I pretend to be drunk. (When did a pregnant woman ever appear drunk on The Cosby Show? Probably never, but I went with it.)

As I readied myself to be the best drunk I could be, he offered me a cappuccino from the espresso machine. I told him I didn’t drink coffee that late in the afternoon because it made getting to sleep at night more difficult. He wouldn’t let it go. He insisted that his espresso machine was the best model on the market and promised I’d never tasted a cappuccino quite like this one.

It’s nuts, I know, but it felt oddly inappropriate arguing with Bill Cosby so I took a few sips of the coffee just to appease him.

Now let me explain this: I was a top model during the 70s, a period when drugs flowed at parties and photo shoots like bottled water at a health spa. I’d had my fun and experimented with my fair share of mood enhancers. I knew by the second sip of the drink Cosby had given me that I’d been drugged—and drugged good.

BY DAVID COOPER/TORONTO STARBill Cosby in 1978.
[Editor’s Note: Cosby’s attorneys did not respond to Vanity Fair’s requests for comment.]

My head became woozy, my speech became slurred, and the room began to spin nonstop. Cosby motioned for me to come over to him as though we were really about to act out the scene. He put his hands around my waist, and I managed to put my hand on his shoulder in order to steady myself.

As I felt my body go completely limp, my brain switched into automatic-survival mode. That meant making sure Cosby understood that I knew exactly what was happening at that very moment.

“You are a motherfucker aren’t you?”

That’s the exact question I yelled at him as he stood there holding me, expecting me to bend to his will. I rapidly called him several more “motherfuckers.” By the fifth, I could tell that I was really pissing him off. At one point he dropped his hands from my waist and just stood there looking at me like I’d lost my mind.

What happened next is somewhat cloudy for me because the drug was in fuller play by that time. I recall his seething anger at my tirade and then him grabbing me by my left arm hard and yanking all 110 pounds of me down a bunch of stairs as my high heels clicked and clacked on every step. I feared my neck was going to break with the force he was using to pull me down those stairs.

It was still late afternoon and the sun hadn’t completely gone down yet. When we reached the front door, he pulled me outside of the brownstone and then, with his hand still tightly clenched around my arm, stood in the middle of the street waving down taxis.

When one stopped, Cosby opened the door, shoved me into it and slammed the door behind me without ever saying a word. I somehow managed to tell the driver my address and before blacking out, I looked at the cabbie and asked, as if he knew: “Did I really just call Bill Cosby ‘a motherfucker’?”

Why that was even a concern of mine after what I’d just been through is still a mystery to me? I think my mind refused to process it.

The next day I woke up in my own bed after falling into a deep sleep that lasted most of the day. I had no memory of how I got into my apartment or into my bed, though most likely my doorman helped me out.

I sat in there still stunned by what happened the night before, confused and devastated by the idea that someone I admired so much had tried to take advantage of me, and used drugs to do so. Had I done something to encourage his actions?

In reality, I knew I’d done nothing to encourage Cosby but my mind kept turning with question after question.

It took a few days for the drug to completely wear off and soon I had to get back to work. I headed to California for an acting audition. Not long after arriving, I decided I needed to confront Cosby for my own sanity’s sake. I thought if I just called him, he would come clean and explain why he’d done what he had.

I dialed the private number he’d given me expecting to hear his voice on the other end. But he didn’t answer. His wife did. A little shocked, I quickly identified myself to her in the most respectful way possible and then asked to speak to Bill. Camille politely informed me that it was very late, 11:00 P.M. and that they were both in bed together.

I apologized for the late call and explained that I was in Los Angeles and had forgotten about the three-hour time difference. I added that I would call back tomorrow.

I didn’t call back the next day or any other day after that. At a certain moment it became clear that I would be fighting a losing battle with a powerful man so callous he not only drugged me, but he also gave me the number to the bedroom he shared with his wife. How could I fight someone that boldly arrogant and out of touch? In the end, just like the other women, I had too much to lose to go after Bill Cosby. I had a career that would no doubt take a huge hit if I went public with my story and I certainly couldn’t afford that after my costly divorce and on going court fees.

For a long time I thought it was something that only happened to me, and that I was somehow responsible. So I kept my secret to myself, believing this truth needed to remain in the darkness. But the last four weeks have changed everything, as so many women have shared similar stories, of which the press have belatedly taken heed.

Still I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years? Or would they see my open and honest account of being betrayed by one of the country’s most powerful, influential, and beloved entertainers?
As I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of the day Bill Cosby drugged me with the intention of doing God knows what, the faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other brown and black men took residence in my mind.

As if I needed to be reminded. The current plight of the black male was behind my silence when Barbara Bowman came out to tell the horrific details of being drugged and raped by Cosby to the Washington Post in November. And I watched in horror as my longtime friend and fellow model Janice Dickinson was raked over the coals for telling her account of rape at Cosby’s hands. Over the years I’ve met other women who also claim to have been violated by Cosby. Many are still afraid to speak up. I couldn’t sit back and watch the other women be vilified and shamed for something I knew was true.

When I sat down to write my memoir in 2013, I pondered if I should include my Cosby experience. I didn’t want to get involved in a he-said/she-said situation. Now that other women have come forward with their nightmare stories, I join them.

Finally, I reached the conclusion that the current attack on African American men has absolutely nothing to do at all with Bill Cosby. He brought this on himself when he decided he had the right to have his way with who knows how many women over the last four decades. If anything, Cosby is distinguished from the majority of black men in this country because he could depend on the powers that be for support and protection.

I had to use my voice as a sister, mother, and grandmother, and as a woman who knows that, according to the C.D.C., nearly one in five women has been sexually assaulted at some time in her life, and that women of color face an even higher attack rate.

In part because of what happened to me nearly 30 years ago, I have agreed to serve on the board of the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children. The experience has been as humbling as it has been rewarding. Many of the young children I work with have been sexually abused and I watch in awe of their bravery as they work to recover and feel better.

How could I be any less brave?

Beverly Johnson was a top model during the 70s and 80s and was the first African American woman to appear on the cover of American Vogue in 1974.

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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

December 12, 2014 at 7:44 am

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