The women who’ve accused Bill Cosby of rape range in age from 20 to 80. They are supermodels, actresses, waitresses, journalists, and Playboy bunnies.
Thirty-five of Bill’s 46 accusers appeared on the cover of New York Magazine Monday, sitting together in a striking black-and-white photo that puts faces to a seemingly unending series of accusations against the legendary comic.
As the Washington Post pointed out, the photo and its accompanying story help the public “keep track” of Bill Cosby’s victims, whose stories are so numerous and similar it’s easy to get them confused. The magazine also suggested there may be more: the last seat in the four rows of women on its cover is empty, suggesting there are many yet to speak.
The article, a series of six video interviews, and photo portfolio crashed the publication’s website when it was published Monday morning, and inspired a Twitter hashtag, #TheEmptyChair. All morning, people expressed their sympathy and support for Cosby’s 35 accusers, and shared their own stories.
#TheEmptyChair During her childhood,my wife was sexually abused for years.She still has nightmares,trouble sleeping,etc— Lance Wolfe (@lwolfe143143) July 27, 2015
Sending out love and light to all those who would've sat in #TheEmptyChair if they could've...— That Girl... (@thinksmrt) July 27, 2015
I am not damaged goods. I am damaged, but I am still good. You are still good. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. #TheEmptyChair— Ella Cerón (@ellaceron) July 27, 2015
I stand with every women or girl sitting in #TheEmptyChair right now. Your resilience is beyond measure.— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) July 27, 2015
The frightening part of #TheEmptyChair is that likely, for each person who came forward, there's at LEAST one who didn't.— 5'7 Black Male (@absurdistwords) July 27, 2015
STOP TEACHING GIRLS THAT BEING "POLITE" IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THEIR SAFETY 2K15 #TheEmptyChair— Camryn Garrett (@dancingofpens) July 27, 2015
#TheEmptyChair thinking of women in institutions: prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, residential facilities for disabled, who believes them?— alice wong (@SFdirewolf) July 27, 2015
It's easy to make a woman, or child, stay quiet when the world protects the abuser. #TheEmptyChair— Laura (@ThisisLauraS) July 27, 2015
The magazine entitled the cover “Cosby: The Women, An Unwelcome Sisterhood,” and indeed, the article presents a “record of trauma and survival,” as E! Online put it. In their interviews, Bill’s accusers tell remarkably similar stories, from the perverse and disturbing details of their rapes, to their sense of disgust, violation, and disbelief in the aftermath.
The New York Daily News highlighted their stories, from the woman preyed upon after her child died, to the actress who knew no one would believe Bill Cosby raped her.
Barbara Bowman, 48, victimized in the late 1980s — “I went into this thinking he was going to be my father. 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 … I felt like a prisoner; I felt like I was kidnapped and hiding in plain sight.” She continued: “I could have walked down any street in 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.”
P.J. Masten, former Playboy bunny — After she told her boss about Cosby, he said ” ‘You do know that’s (Hugh) Hefner’s best friend, right?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She says to me: ‘Nobody’s going to believe you. I suggest you shut your mouth.’ “
Sammie Mays, 57, assaulted in 1987 — “When I see 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.”
Heidi Thomas, 55 — She was told Cosby wanted to mentor her; during an audition, he plied her with wine because her character was supposed to be drunk. “I really don’t remember much, except waking up in his bedroom. He was naked, and he was forcing himself into my mouth.”
Joyce Emmons, 70 –– Asked Cosby for something to relieve a headache. “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.”
Jewel Allison, 52 — “I was just too scared, and I also had the extra burden of not really wanting to take an African-American man down.”
Victoria Valentino, 72 — She saw him victimize her roommate in 1969 after he offered both of them pills. She passed out, woke up, and “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.”
Bill Cosby, of course, has vehemently denied wrongdoing. And he is going after one of his accusers — who didn’t appear on the magazine cover — Andrea Constand, for releasing part of the damning 2005 deposition related to her own suit against the comic for assault. They had a confidential settlement.
According to E! Online, Cosby’s new attorney, Monique Pressley, isn’t convinced that the volume of accusers making claims against her client proves anything.
“I’m not making conclusions—and you know that I can’t—about whether someone is lying or not. What I am saying is that Mr. Cosby has denied the accusations that have been lodged thus far. The sheer volume or number of people who are saying a particular thing does not make it true.”
[Photo Courtesy Spencer Platt / Getty Images]