One of the most important things I have learned is that rapists rarely act the part when they are not raping.
Dear Dr. Camille Cosby,
Forgive me the presumption of addressing you directly. If you do not mind, I would like to address you as Dr. Cosby. You earned your doctorate when you could have quite easily rested on your husband’s laurels. I admire that, and I believe that you deserve our collective respect.
I read your statement about the allegations against your husband. This is the part that gripped my attention and made my heart hurt for you:
“I met my husband, Bill Cosby, in 1963, and we were married in 1964. The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work. He is a kind man, a generous man, a funny man, and a wonderful husband, father, and friend. He is the man you thought you knew.
“A different man has been portrayed in the media over the last two months. It is the portrait of a man I do not know. It is also a portrait painted by individuals and organizations whom many in the media have given a pass. There appears to be no vetting of my husband’s accusers before stories are published or aired.”
I want you to hear something very important: I, for one, believe you. You have been in his life for more than 50 years. And I do not take you for a fool. I have no doubt that he has been a kind, generous, funny, and otherwise wonderful husband. I believe that in your family he has been very similar to Cliff Huxtable, a humble, goofy loving, and lovable man who could not, would not hurt a soul.
I hope that you believe me when I say that I, in no way, doubt you. But here is the thing, Dr. Cosby: I also believe your husband’s accusers.
As both the daughter of a rape survivor and a rape a survivor myself, I know a few things about rapists that I am guessing you do not know. One of the most important things I have learned is that rapists rarely act the part when they are not raping.
For the most part, rapists don’t act any differently than your average person in their every-day lives. They don’t look creepy, or act on an insatiable desire for sex in their daily lives. Here is a horrible truth: You can be married to a rapist for 50 years and never know it.
It boggles the minds of ordinary decent people that a person can be both a model husband and father, and also a serial rapist. But the truth is that most sexual offenders I have known are so ashamed of their sexual predation, that they completely drive it from their minds when they are not raping or getting a thrill out of planning their next rape. They are every bit as non-congruent, as divorced from the other side of themselves as the legendary Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
What I have learned from hard experience is that most rapists are two people. They are the wonderful person that most people see. They are generous to a fault and keep excellent if not slightly prudish boundaries with people of the opposite sex. The other side is really only seen by their victims.
They are experts at hiding the other part of themselves, the part that needs to squash a woman’s sexuality, the part that needs to crumble their faces in the dust. They hide it from themselves as well as their partners.
So all of these years, he has not been lying to you. He really was the Cosby we saw on television, the Cosby who was in your home, the man you were proud to call your husband. He was kind and generous. He was nothing if not magnanimous to those around him. Truly, he was all of those things. And you can be very thankful that you knew that side of him.
But believe the multitude of women when they tell you that there was another side to your husband. And of course, this was a side you never saw. This was the side that groomed women, that set them up, that drugged them, and raped them.
And the worst part, is that the man you are with can look you in the eye and say to you with all solemnity and sense of truthfulness, “I never did those things. You know me. I am not that person.”
Why can he lie to you without so much as a twitch? He can do that because he has never had his denial broken. Breaking denial for a person with a serious sexual illness is harder than breaking denial on any addict. They so despise their own actions, they push it as far away from their conscious minds as possible.
Bill would never have shown this side of himself to you. He loves you and wants you to love him in return. He would never risk showing you the side of himself that he finds vile, that he knows is unlovable.
So as much as you feel like you are an expert on the behavior of your husband, Dr. Cosby, I am sorry to say that you really have no idea if your husband would rape or not.
If things continue as they are going, your husband will at some point be forced to break his denial. At some point, he will tell you the truth. And when he does, you will have a choice: Will you look away? Or will you insist that your husband do what is within his power to make restitution to the women he raped?
In the meantime, you are in my thoughts.
Lynn Beisner writes about family, social justice issues, and the craziness of daily life. Her work can be found on Role Reboot, Alternet, and on her blog: Two Parts Smart-Ass; One Part Wisdom. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.