Bill Cosby is a free man and Britney Spears is still not a free woman. Why? Because in our society “boys will be boys,” while a woman’s trauma is continually ignored.
Needless to say, the headlines that flooded the internet on Wednesday marked a perplexing and disturbing day for women, victims of abuse, and morality within our justice system.
On this triggering day, Cosby was released from prison after The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his indecent assault conviction. While in another courthouse on the west coast, the Los Angeles Superior Court denied Britney Spears’ request to have her father removed from her conservatorship.
Within the nuances of the American court system, a man being granted immunity for taking a woman’s (a baffling 60 women with assault accusations to be exact ) consent over her sexuality away from her, while another woman is kept trapped under the control of a man (Spears has described as abusive) in every aspect of her life, even leaving her without autonomy over her own body, doesn’t scream justice… just misogyny.
My colleague, Joia DaVida, shared this comment with me, “We live in a wildly patriarchal society that mimics The Handmaid’s Tale at this point. It seems like our country hates women. Victims of rape are made to feel like they are the ones who did something wrong. They’re questioned about what they were wearing, whether or not they were flirting, and what they were doing as if their rape was their own fault. Our justice system is ridiculously flawed. There shouldn’t be a statute of limitations on rape or child molestation, yet there is.”
She is not wrong.
In situations like these, where the evidence of abuse and the testimonies of traumatized women are abundant, the system still enables and rewards the predatory abusers in positions of power.
It’s not hard to understand why women who suffer abuse at the hands of men struggle to come forward. From Christine Blasey Ford to Anita Hill, to Britney Spears, to the Cosby victims – historically we don’t believe women.
Women who make the courageous decision and effort to come forward with their pain are often ignored, silenced, devalued, discredited, and minimized. The fact that what’s morally wrong and undeniably abusive can be overlooked by loopholes with in a justice system of a fair trail, raises the question: is that system really just?
If dozens of women can come forward with serial-like predatory behavior from the same man and that same man can walk free due to a technicality, how are women supposed to believe in a system that is systematically against them?
If a woman publicly pleads “I’m traumatized and abused” and the system does nothing to protect her and believes the cries for help of women because of legalities as she suffers, who is this system tangibly benefiting?
Systematically this was a system set up by white Anglo-Saxon men and it continues to serve men, most of the time white. In Cosby’s case, Black. The idea that Cosby continually called on the Black community for support – a community he berated for years – is a bad joke from a disgraced comedian.
However, the message heard around the world on Wednesday wasn’t one of innocent until proven guilty, but a man you can be proven guilty of rape, assault, abuse, control, and even trafficking a woman’s life, and be granted immunity, freedom, and perhaps even more control.
Don’t ever ask a woman who has survived abuse again, “Why didn’t you report it? Why didn’t you come forward? Why didn’t you stand up for yourself? Why didn’t you say anything?”
When women speak of their abuse, privately and publicly they are often met with opposition, questioning, discrediting, shaming, victim-blaming, or even distrust of an ill-intended agenda to taint a man’s reputation.
This immediate response to devalue a woman’s testimony suggests that a man’s ego and image is far more important than a woman’s well being and certainly that his word “I didn’t do it” is more credible than her cry of “I was raped” or abused, assaulted, gaslit, etc.
And let’s be clear here – Bill Cosby raped, abused and assaulted at least 60 women.
After experiencing a trauma and having the strength to come forward, to only be met with having your experience gaslit, minimized, and discredited while having to relive the trauma and put oneself as risk in the fear of the abuser’s retaliation to being exposed, is too heavy a cross to bear.
It is often much less painful for women to suffer in silence, for when women speak we are not often to heard. A system in which 60 women’s voices were not heard as Bill Cosby is free and one woman’s voice was not heard as Britney Spears is not, is proof of that.
June 30 was a Wednesday, also known as “Hump Day.” What’s clear is that we still have a huge hump to overcome when it comes to justice.
Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.