The Cosby Show was a cultural touchstone for many people during its successful run, and Bill Cosby was viewed by millions as a father figure who always knew best. Following the recent sex abuse scandal that saw dozens of women come forward with stories of rape and drugged encounters at his hands, those who grew up with Cosby on their television screens are having to come face to face with some hard truths, and some difficult choices.
For Johnita Due, The Cosby Show was a regular part of life, something that allowed her family to come together at least one night a week and gave them something to laugh at during some very difficult times. For her–and many, many others–Bill Cosby the performer became tangled up with his character on the show: a loving father and husband who would do anything for his family and expected the best from them at all times. Now, in the wake of so many horrible allegations from women who have battled to have their voices heard, Due says it’s important to separate the man from the show.
“Once you’ve lost a parent or another loved one, it’s hard to fully mourn the loss of somebody you don’t know. Even if they were in your home once a week for family gatherings during your formative years. So over the past year, I haven’t mourned the loss of the man we thought was Bill Cosby. But now I’m allowing myself to mourn the loss of “The Cosby Show” and what it meant to my family and millions of others,” Due writes.
This week, 35 women appeared on the cover of New York Magazine in an unprecedented photo shoot that has the web buzzing. Shown in stark black and white, these women–all alleged victims of Cosby’s, many with similar stories–say they felt at the time the abuse occurred that they had to stay silent simply because of who he was. For more than one victim, Cosby’s celebrity status was secondary to the fact that he was held up in high regard by so many because of the show.
“I went into this thinking he was going to be my father. To wake up half-dressed and raped by the man that said he was going to love me like a father? That’s pretty sick. I felt like a prisoner; I felt I was kidnapped and hiding in plain sight. I could have walked down any street of Manhattan at any time and said, ‘I’m being raped and drugged by Bill Cosby,’ but who the hell would have believed me? Nobody, nobody,” said Barbara Bowman.
Bill Cosby admitted during a 2005 deposition that he used Quaaludes during sexual encounters, but claimed it was consensual. In June, he said in a rare interview that he couldn’t talk about the allegations, but has denied them through his representatives.
“I have been in this business over 52 years and I have never seen anything like this. Reality is the situation. And I can’t speak.”