I love my hometown of Sandusky, Ohio. In fact, Forbes.com recently seconded what we Sanduskians have long known when it named Sandusky “The Best Place to Live Cheaply” in the United States. Today, however, I am ashamed that this Friday our city’s theater plans to host the beleaguered Bill Cosby. The State Theater’s web page explains, “While we are aware of the allegations reported in the press, we are only in a position to judge him based on his career as an entertainer and humanitarian.” The theater has staked its own cowardly position despite the cancellation of Cosby’s scheduled appearance by seven other theaters in six other states who have boldly accepted the burden of doing the right thing even if it means suffering a financial loss. I am equally ashamed that thus far there has been little local public outcry to Cosby’s appearance, and it appears he will slip into town on Friday, do his thing, pocket his cash, and slip out of town with his seemingly Teflon-coated conscience unscathed by local voices of condemnation.
The most galling part of the State Theater’s vacuous explanation is its claim that “we are only in a position to judge him based on his career as an entertainer and humanitarian.” What about the public testimony of more than twenty women with strikingly similar accounts of Cosby’s sexual impositions against them? Should not their voices be heard, considered, and fairly judged? Just this week in The Huffington Post, Cindra Ladd, the wife of the accomplished film producer Alan Ladd and a successful executive and philanthropist in her own right, shared her account of Cosby’s alleged sexual assault against her person. Ladd’s waking nightmare followed the near-identical script as reported by so many others. According to Ladd, Cosby used his celebrity to ingratiate himself to the then 21 year-old. He supplied her with an unidentified drug. She later woke up naked having been sexually assaulted. Is it logical that so many women with no connection to one another and with so little to gain could have conspired to concoct such consistently similar stories? If so, for what purpose? Granted in criminal court, the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty. Such a standard, however, never has and never will exist in the court of public opinion, which is, sadly but most likely, the only court in which Cosby will ever be judged. In said court, only the staunchest of his supporters would deny that the evidence against Cosby is overwhelming.
Giving voice to many of Cosby’s most loyal fans and apologists, attorney, Martin Singer, has said that the allegations “have escalated far past the point of absurdity.” He oafishly added, it is “completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.” I suggest, however, that Ladd’s explanation of her own delay in coming forward is the perfect rebuttal to Singer’s apparently limited understanding of the mindset of the victims of sexual assault. Ladd wrote, “Those who suffer from these types of assaults know the prison of shame, bewilderment and disbelief. Like so many victims, my way of coping was to shove the memory into the back of my mind. I only revealed nine years ago what happened that night to my husband of nearly 30 years after another woman went public with similar allegations and sued Cosby. I always thought I was the only one.” As Singer surely knows but conveniently chooses to ignore, Ladd’s prolonged silence is far from “illogical” and perfectly consistent with the behavior of many victims of sexual assault.
It’s a lame cop out, State Theater, to claim that you or I or anyone else isn’t in a position to judge this man or to believe his accusers. Despite your long and distinguished service to the community, you have brought shame to my hometown. I guess, State Theater, you have a specious right to host this man and to take your blood money, and I suppose the people of Sandusky have a right to watch him perform and to pretend they aren’t in the company of evil, but I too have a right: the right to condemn your support of Cosby and your callous repudiation of his alleged victims. I also have the right to speak freely and to stand with these brave women who have stepped out from the shadows of their undeserved and unnecessary shame to share their horror stories and to confront the monster who preyed upon them.
Ty Roth is the author of So Shelly and Goodness Falls. Both are available in all formats through your favorite online bookstore. Visit my web page at http://www.tyrothbooks.com for direct links to Amazon, B & N, BAM, Indie Bound, and Kobo.