Kit Steinkellner
Updated Jul 27, 2015 @ 9:29 am
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For decades, there have been sexual assault accusations directed at comedian Bill Cosby. These women, whose stories have borne eerie similarities, have been silenced and ignored, and, as a public figure, Cosby remained unaffected by these testimonies. Then, this past October, comedian Hannibal Buress performed a now-legendary stand-up set in which he shamed Cosby for assigning himself a position of moral authority in light of these allegations.

The set went viral, and over the past year we’ve seen Cosby’s image implode. In Buress’ set, he refers to Cosby’s “f—ing Teflon public image.” However, since that set, we’ve seen Cosby’s Netflix and NBC deals disappear, his performances canceled, and The Cosby Show yanked off the air. With regards to the accusations, dozens of women have come forward with stories of assault at Cosby’s hands, stories the world finally listened to. This summer, legal proceedings are moving forward against Bill Cosby and the comedian will be forced to give testimony in a mounting civil suit against him. It doesn’t look like there’s so much as a scrap of Teflon on Cosby anymore.

What we want to focus on today is the women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault, the women who are finally being heard. As a result of a few women coming forward, more women have come forward over the course of this past year accusing Cosby of sexual violence, 46 women altogether.

Over the past six months, New York Magazine has gathered 35 of these women to take part in a powerful story. On the cover of this issue, shot in black and white, the women sit in rows of chairs, the final chair left open, a symbolic gesture that seems to be directed at the alleged survivors who do not appear in the shot, the women who have come forward with accusations but chose not to participate in the piece, or possibly even a nod to those who have experienced violence at Cosby’s hands who have not come forward at all.

The cover made such a splash that New York Magazine’s website has been down since roughly the time of posting, apparently this is the work of a hacker.

Here’s the truth — it’s Hannibal Buress’ comedy set that got people to start listening, but it was the volume of alleged victims who came forward that convinced the public to believe. We live in a culture that protects powerful men from facing the consequences for their violent actions. It took 46 women telling different versions of the same story for the public to listen to these allegations. It’s damning evidence not only against the alleged attacker, Bill Cosby, but against our culture, which often buries or overlooks such allegations.

While yes it took an enormous group of women coming together to get the public to listen, but the public is listening now. All these testimonies put together make the point that when we look at Bill Cosby, the first thing we see will not be his “America’s Dad” public persona of years past, but rather the unspeakable acts he’s accused of committing behind closed doors. One of the women in this article made the point that together, they have changed the trajectory of Cosby’s legacy.

It should not have taken all these women coming together and telling their stories for them to be heard. Still, their solidarity is effective, and the fact that we are listening bodes well for survivors in the future. It is a “sorrowful sisterhood,” as it is called in the magazine, but it is a sisterhood that has, in bravely coming together, changed the collective conversation and forced us to look at a larger issue of rape culture that’s so often brushed aside.

[Image via Twitter]