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Why didn't you know about Bill Cosby's rape allegations until now?

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Why did it take a male comedian to get us to pay attention to Bill Cosby's rape accusers?

If you're the sort who subscribes to the general where-there's-smoke-there's-fire line of reason, then honey, Bill Cosby is a hookah sitting in the middle of a tire fire.

As hard as it might be to believe, Dr. Huxtable has been accused of rape by 13 women over three decades. Let that sink in for a minute. Thirteen women. All with similar stories of being groomed to trust Cosby as a mentor, drugged and assaulted. He's paid out undisclosed sums in cash and prizes to keep these women quiet.

The whole thing stinks.

So why did it take a man to get us to finally pay attention to the victims? Barbara Bowman accused Cosby of drugging and raping her many times three decades ago and wrote a brave Op-Ed in the Washington Post this week asking that very question. Why did it take a man, Hannibal Buress, to remind us about the allegations that have dogged Bill Cosby for years? Why weren't the women's accusations enough to get people's attention?

Here's the stand-up from Hannibal Buress that renewed the public's interest in Cosby's many rape accusations.

"Well, yeah, you're a rapist… If you didn't know about it, trust me," Hannibal says in his stand-up act. "You leave here and Google 'Bill Cosby rape.' It's not funny. That shit has more results than Hannibal Buress."

He's right. There's nothing funny about it. But even Buress wasn't directly asking why Cosby isn't in jail for his crimes or why his victims have never had their days in court. Maybe that would just be too much. Even the description of the video of Buress' stand-up estimates he took things "too far." Really? We're protecting the feelings of someone accused 13 times of raping women? Women he paid off rather than face in court? I beg to differ.

But Buress' taking Cosby to task is something that really does feel taboo, given Cosby's iconic status, power and reputation as an advocate for education and family and everything society views as wholesome.

Couple that with the fact that women aren't taken seriously by law enforcement and the criminal justice system — 97 percent of rapists will never spend a single day in jail. Girls are fighting on college campuses across the country to have their rapists brought to justice. Women and girls simply aren't believed when they report they have been raped, despite the fact that only 2 percent of rapes are falsely reported.

What can we do? Cosby's victims have either settled, or the statute of limitations on the crimes has long expired. Cosby's an old man now, facing the launch of a new NBC sitcom and a firestorm of questions about his conduct that threatens to destroy his entire legacy. But let's use this moment to help today's hopeful girls and young women, who are disproportionately the victims of sex crimes, to find their voice and to find a place to be heard. We hear you, we believe you, we want to help. That would be a great place to start, don't you think?

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