5 Things Victims of Sexual Assault Can Learn from Bill Cosby’s Accusers

For months now the media has been reporting on the alleged sexual assaults of women by Bill Cosby, iconic TV father of the 80’s, comedian and family man. Some of these alleged accounts date back to the 60’s and all of them seem to follow the same script: young woman, admirer of Cosby, aspiring actress is drugged and violated by someone whom she thinks is a friend and mentor. Most everyone who watched Cosby Show in the 80’s loved and respected Bill Cosby’s portrayal of what is meant to be a lovable, supportive but strict father. Yet, as we now try to reconcile the past image with what has been reported as a highly calculated sexual predator it is hard to think that these two images arise from the same person.
This week the New York Magazine featured the accounts of some of these women. Thirty-five of the alleged victims were photographed for its front cover. The comedian has denied all sexual assault allegations and has not been charged with a crime, but acknowledged in a 2005 court deposition made public three weeks ago that he intended to give Quaaludes, a date rape drug, to young women with whom he wanted to have sex.

Sexual assault is traumatic and life changing.  Although Cosby has not been formally charged with any crime it shines the spotlight on women who experience sexual assault and the emotional and physical scars they may experience:

  1. PTSD
  2. Unwanted pregnancy
  3. Sexually transmitted diseases
  4. Physical injuries
  5. Loss of relationships
  6. Loss of jobs
  7. Depression
  8. Suicide attempts
  9. The list goes on.

Here are 5 Things Victims of Sexual Assault Can Learn from Bill Cosby’s Accusers:
1. You Are Not Alone: Although it might feel like no one understands what you have been through one in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. Every year in the United States, 1,270,000 women experience rape.

2. Don’t Keep Silent: As much as you think others might blame you for perhaps being drunk, being suggestive or not making wise choices, don’t let guilt, shame or your hazy recollection of details keep you from telling your story. If one person doesn’t believe you tell another then another. Go to the police or hospital as soon as you can to report your assault even if time has lapsed. Having something on record may help the next victim even if there is not enough physical evidence to make a case.

3. Get Help As Soon As Possible: Rape crisis hotlines and centers are available in most cities. If you are in a dangerous situation women shelters or churches may offer a safe place to stay or give you time to make a safety plan. Seek counseling as soon as possible as the emotional and psychological scars from sexual assault may take years to heal long after the physical scars are gone.

  1. Therapy can help you recognize lessons learned
  2. Empower you to finally stand up for yourself
  3. Teach you how to have better self-esteem
  4. How to have healthy relationships
  5. How to cope with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

4. Don’t Let Fear Intimidate You: Fear and intimidation may come from your boss, mentor, friend, parent, even your spouse but don’t let that fear paralyze you from action. You are your own best advocate and even if your report of what happen may come at a price your soul will be not be in turmoil for telling the truth and standing up for yourself. Seek people out who can give you physical, financial as well as emotional support.

5. Your Assault Need Not Define You: Sexual assault is not something one easily forgets or just gets over. It takes a long time to heal. But even so it doesn’t have to define who you are, what your goals are and how you are able to function in a relationship. Once you are able to see it as a tragedy in your life but not let it define your life, you then get to decide how much power if any you are going to let it have over you. You can choose to walk in the light of truth instead of the darkness of shame.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault and are fearful of reporting, please call the Victim Service Center of Central Florida’s 24 hr hotline at 407-497-6701. They provide crisis intervention, service options, and information on sexual assault whether your assault is recent or in the past. Total Life Counseling also has licensed and trained trauma therapists on staff to help with your recovery and advocacy.

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Author: Lyris Steuber, MA, LMFT is a Lake Mary Marriage Therapist & Couples Counselor with Total Life Counseling Center. Total Life Counseling Center specializes in marriage and families and our experts can be reached at (407) 248-0030.