The Empty Chair

New York Magazine’s July 26th article features the profiles of 35 of the current 46 women who came forward accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault. The empty chair is for all the men and women in the world who haven’t reported their own stories.

New York Magazine’s July 26th article features the profiles of 35 of the current 46 women who came forward accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault. The empty chair is for all the men and women in the world who haven’t reported their own stories.

The best thing you can do this week is set aside a block of time to read New York Magazine’s package of interviews with 35 of the 46 women (so far) who have come forward about being assaulted by Bill Cosby. These interviews are raw, emotional, and necessary to understanding the damages of rape.

The cover shows black and white portraits of these 35 women, all bonded by the horrors of their assaults from one man, and their need to report the crimes decades after these crimes happened. But these women’s stories just brush the surface of the real issue, because it took DECADES for someone to take them seriously. Decades.

The first paragraph to the article highlights how Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist in October 2014, and consistently reminds us that it took a man to point this out before authorities started taking the women seriously. And because of statute of limitations, legal deliberations, and a strong, yet sometimes infuriating backlash from his lawyers, Cosby is still walking around a free man while more and more women come forward.

So my thought: How is this ok? How is it possible for these women to go so long without being heard? And for the ones who were brave enough to come forward, why did it take so long for someone to believe them? And why haven’t we done more to bring justice?

On July 27, 2015, Vulture released a detailed timeline of allegations against Cosby, which shockingly begins with Andrea Constand in 2002, even though since her allegations have come forward, more and more women have found the strength to report their cases that occurred back in the 1960s and 70s. Sexual assault is something that takes tremendous courage to come forward with, and as we’ve seen with these women, it’s also something that unfortunately isn’t taken seriously.

Social media has played a significant role in the war against Cosby. Since more and more allegations have become public, news outlets and readers alike are taking to the Internet to spread the word. Many organizations are breaking affiliations with Cosby, and TV networks are cancelling deals left and right. But even with the negative attention Cosby has earned, he still refuses to admit fault. Which is why it is so, SO important to keep the victims in mind—we have to change how our society deals with rape.

Since the article dropped on July 26, I’ve read every account, watched the videos, and between the emotions of disgust, fear, and disbelief, the emotion I conveyed the most is anger. I’m angry that these women had to live with the effects of their assault—living with the shame, the fear, and the pain that crippled them from coming forward sooner. And because no one believed them for so long, it’s taken an immense amount of courage to break from that fear and finally bring—what’s the word I’m looking for—closure?, a state of peace? to their pain.

While every bit of text in this series is important, what strikes me most is the empty chair—the symbol for every sexual assault that hasn’t been reported ever (not just in the case of Cosby). The chair is for the people still living with that reality. And with the hashtag #TheEmptyChair, we’re beginning to see more stories come forward from all around the world, empowering victims of sexual assault to know that we are listening, and there is help out there.

Sexual assault and rape, are difficult to overcome. For many men and women, they fear coming forward. Maybe they blame themselves. Maybe they are afraid of how it will impact their lives after. Whatever the case is, it does not excuse the aggressor. Rape, is rape, is rape, and no matter how long it takes for you to report it. No matter what the case, if it was not consensual, if it was not welcomed, it’s not ok.

So please, take the time to read these women’s stories. It shows that we are listening, that we are here to help and to bring change to the rape culture so many are still hesitant to address. Because they should all be allowed to live in peace.