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The Cosby Trial Reminded Me Why I’ll Never Seek Justice

Bill Cosby (Matt Rourke/AP Images)
Bill Cosby (Matt Rourke/AP Images)

I have been sexually assaulted twice in my life.

Each incident was almost textbook in what we know about how sexual assault usually works. I was younger than my assaulter, and in both instances, he was in a position of power over me. In one instance, we had a relationship prior to the attack, including consensual sexual contact, and we continued to be cordial to each other for a short time after the attack.

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Both instances left me crumpled, afraid and disgusted with myself. Even today, I feel as if both instances were my fault and that I could have stopped it from happening. I could have been more forceful. I could have spoken out sooner. I could have told someone.

One situation was just a few years ago. I know I’ll never speak up about it or try to bring charges. I could never take the scrutiny that someone like Andrea Constand experienced during the Bill Cosby trial. People used things like the fact that it had been 12 years earlier—just a week before the statute of limitations ran out—to discredit her. She also communicated with him after the attack—and that was supposed to mean she was lying, too.

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I watched the trial coverage realizing that there are myriad things my attacker’s legal team could say in court that would be humiliating for me and would greatly reduce my chances of winning the case.

“They had sex before!”

“She suffers from depression!”

“She accused someone else of sexual assault!”

“She works in the entertainment industry!”

“She used to drink every single weekend!”

“This was years ago! How does she even remember what happened?”

I shudder just to think about it all. Though I believe this person should be punished, I just don’t have it in me to go through that process. I have to just stay in therapy to deal with what happened. And I console myself in knowing that I will do everything in my power to make sure my two daughters never experience this pain.

In the other instance, I was only 12 years old. And my abuser was my camp counselor. There are no gray areas here, and I have enough recall and witnesses to have a strong case. We are talking about something that happened over 30 years ago. But the only thing against me is the very thing that doesn’t matter in New Jersey: the length of time.

While my state doesn’t have a statute of limitations for sexual assault, I know that the court of public opinion still does. The question would be why. Why come forward now? As far as I can tell, my abuser has lived a pious life and is married with children and has had a storied life as a public figure. I’m sure people would either not believe me at all or think I had an ulterior motive for coming out of the woodwork now.

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In Pennsylvania, where Cosby was tried, the laws state that minors who are victims of sexual assault have until the age of 50 to press charges. If I lived there, I would have six more years left.

Why do we place a statute of limitations on bringing charges of sexual assault? Why should you only have a certain amount of time to become strong enough to speak out? Is it to protect the victim or the accuser? Can someone who has been sexually assaulted only be trusted with correct testimony for a certain amount of time?

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First-degree murder has no statute of limitations. There are cold cases that can be tried decades after the crime was committed. So what does that mean? We trust someone’s word or evidence if it’s murder, but not necessarily if it’s regarding another violent act?

This is why people who are victims of sexual assault often don’t speak up. It’s the kind of crime that loses its potency in the courtroom the more time goes by.

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What hurts is that sexual assault is the kind of crime that actually needs time. Victims of rape and sexual assault don’t usually run to a lawyer to press charges. It’s hard enough to go to a hospital and seek treatment.

Things are changing—slowly. California recently removed statutes of limitations for sexual assault, and other states are reviewing their laws.

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I am hopeful that the statutes of limitations for sexual assaults are removed nationwide.

The effects of a sexual assault are long-term and limitless.

Aliya S. King, a native of East Orange, N.J., is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books. She has written professionally since 1998.

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DISCUSSION

rewind4thatbehind
Rewind4ThatBehind

It’s not talked about much but for the exact same reasons you listed Aliya, this is why, as a man, I never went to the authorities about my assaults.

The first one will be exactly 10 years ago come July. I was in Nebraska when it happened, by a woman who I should have known better to never get close to in the first place. I still blame myself for what happened all these years, still feel stupid for even knowing her, let alone being in a relationship with her. I shrugged it off when it happened, but I had no idea for the next 8 years, it would psychologically damage me in a way that I could not predict nor understand, and be one of the factors that cost me my marriage.

The second one, I was a child. I just learned about this last year. I always knew something was off. I always knew my depression, my issues being around men, my intimacy issues, my self confidence, self esteem, etc....it all stemmed from some childhood trauma. But I couldn’t tell. The memory was blocked. One time my ex-wife mentioned to me after a fight “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were molested as a child. It would explain a lot about you”. I agreed with her and sought therapy after that. I just never expected it would have been true.

In both cases, who was I going to talk to about this? Where would I seek help? A full grown man saying he was raped by a woman? I’d be laughed off. And if I said it was a white woman who raped me to Nebraska authorities? I don’t even want to know how they would have responded to me then. What men could I speak to about this? None, because I do not know men whom I could have this sort of conversation with. With that said, I couldn’t even imagine going through with the proceedings and receiving public backlash for the same reasons you listed. I might be stronger now that I’ve faced these issues but those scars are forever.

Probably what hurts is I used to be the kind of man who questioned & scrutinized every single thing a woman said when rape was the topic, only to find out I had been sitting on this the entire time. Which is further proof that people are cruel, petty, and disgustingly dismissive of what they don’t know until they are forced into a similar position. What kind of hope does any victim have when the first thing out of the public’s mouth is “are you sure?”