Bill Cosby: Comedian, Philanthropist, but Rape Allegations Won’t Go Away

With his new biography out this year and word of a new TV show, the public has been buzzing about previous claims of rape and sexual assault by a number of women who encountered Cosby over the years.

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Bill Cosby performs at the seventh annual Stand Up for Heroes event at Madison Square Garden Nov. 6, 2013, in New York City.  

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

On Monday, Bill Cosby’s website released the Cosby meme generator (now removed), an image macro that was supposed to let people create memes of the famed comedian from his Cosby Show days. But Cosby’s meme generator turned into an unfiltered vehicle to denounce the comedian over the numerous allegations of sexual assault that have plagued him over the years.

Cosby’s sordid sexual history goes back to the 1970s, according to his accusers, but most of the allegations didn’t get any media attention until a 2005 civil lawsuit in which 13 women came forward in support of the main litigant. All the women told similar stories of Cosby taking them under his wing as they sought careers in the entertainment industry. The women claimed that Cosby emotionally and physically broke them down, resulting in alleged druggings and sexual assaults.

Cosby settled the lawsuit in 2006, but the stories didn’t start surfacing again until news broke that the comedian was developing a new show with NBC. The following is a timeline of this suit and other sexual assault allegations made against Cosby.

November 2002

Andrea Constand, director of operations for the Temple University women’s basketball team, meets Cosby. They become friends, and Constand claims that she sees Cosby, a Temple grad, as a mentor.

January 2004

According to court documents, Constand says that she was invited to Cosby’s home to discuss his possibly helping her with a career change. During the discussion, Constand says, she felt “stressed” and that Cosby offered her three blue pills to help her relax. In the documents, Constand claims that her knees became weak and she began to feel dizzy and sick. After helping her to the couch, Cosby allegedly “touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated” her.

January 2005

A year later, Constand reports to police what she claims happened in Cosby’s home.

February 2005

Tamara Green, in support of Constand, comes forward. Green claims that Cosby assaulted her in the 1970s shortly after she met him for lunch at a restaurant. Green, who claims that she was sick at the time, was given some pills by Cosby that made her exhausted. Cosby took Green home and, according to her, volunteered to undress her and put her to bed. A struggle ensued, and Green says that when she woke up, she found that Cosby had left two $100 bills on her nightstand.

When asked by Newsweek why she didn’t come forward sooner, Green said, “It never works out, unless you’re bleeding and there’s DNA and an eyewitness. I was 19 and he was the king of the world, so how was it going to work? I was a teenager. Nobody would’ve believed me.”

Later, the district attorney investigating Constand’s case decides not to bring criminal charges against Cosby, claiming a lack of evidence.

March 2005

Constand files a civil suit in a Pennsylvania court against Cosby. The case—in which she seeks $150,000 in damages—charges Cosby with battery and assault. Along with Constand, 13 other women with similar stories are mentioned in court documents as “Jane Doe” witnesses.

June 2005

Beth Ferrer, one of the Jane Doe witnesses, says that she had an affair with Cosby during the 1980s but that he drugged and assaulted her when the relationship ended.

“I woke up and I was in the back of my car all alone,” she says. “My clothes were a mess. My bra was undone. My top was untucked. And I’m sitting there going, ‘Oh, my God. Where am I?’ What’s going on? I was so out of it. It was just awful.”

February 2006

Constand sues one of Cosby’s attorneys and the National Enquirer for defamation, claiming that an interview Cosby did implied that Constand’s efforts were about extorting money from him.

November 2006

Cosby ends up settling the case with Constand for an undisclosed amount. None of the women brought on as Jane Does ends up testifying.

Another of the Jane Does, aspiring actress and model Barbara Bowman, comes forward with her story. Bowman claims that at 17 she was also taken under Cosby’s wing. Bowman says that Cosby became like a father figure to her, convincing her that he loved and cared for her. The abuse didn’t start, she says, until she turned 18. After that, Bowman says, the assaults happened several times on out-of-town trips.

“I was assaulted a number of times from age 18 to 19. Cosby would warn me before out-of-town trips, ‘You aren’t going to fight me this time, are you?’” Bowman recounted to Newsweek earlier this year.

February 2014

Shortly after several stories come to light about Woody Allen’s sexual history, Gawker publishes “Who Wants to Remember Bill Cosby’s Multiple Sex-Assault Allegations?” The story reignites interest in the case of Constand and the 13 women who joined her civil suit.

Danielle C. Belton is an associate editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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