Rape: Lurking in the Shadows of Stardom

By Danielle Sposato

Everyone has someone that they admire, someone that they look up to. Whether it’s our parents, our relatives, friends, or even someone further a field, like a celebrity. Most people know of a prominent figure in the media who has impacted their lives in one way or another whether it is watching them on a television show or on the news.

Celebrities have the ability to change they shape the way we view the world. When we look to the media at those who are in the public eye, we tend to view them differently, on somewhat of a pedestal. When we consider prominent public figures, and the impact that they make upon our lives, it becomes unsettling when the true colors of a celebrity no longer seems to coincide with the stature that we have given them.

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Photo Credit: Jenavieve/Flickr.com

 

Throw rape accusations, or molestation in the mix, and we have a real frightening issue on our hands. Rape is one of society’s rightfully declared taboos; it is the act of forcing men and women against their will to perform sexual activities. Molestation is an occurrence that knows no bounds in the mindset of a sexual predator. When we think of people who would have the audacity to carry out any of these actions, we pin them as sick and deluded individuals, and potentially someone who has no place in society, and who is regarded as inhumane.

For generations, people have been raised on different television shows, such as The Cosby Show, and 7th Heaven. These shows were extremely popular when our generation was growing up. “I grew up watching The Cosby Show and Kids Say The Darndest Things, so of course I love Bill Cosby,” Jordan Supinksy, junior Public Relations major said. We tend to relate our lives to the way the family dynamics in these shows are depicted. We always imagine that the characters in these shows that we connect to are exactly how they portray themselves on screen.

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Recently, two well-known father figures from these television shows have been accused of sexual abuse. Bill Cosby, who is known for his role of the loving father Bill Huxtable on The Cosby Show, has had allegations made against him, which claim that he has sexually abused several women during his career, according to Nicole Weisenee Eagan’s PEOPLE magazine article, “All About Bill Cosby’s Accusers –and the Fall of a TV icon,” on November 24, 2014. According to many media reports, accusers are now stepping forward, including his former publicist Tarshis, who claimed he had, “drugged and sexually assaulted her in his bungalow on set,” in 1969, according to the article.

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Photo Credit: The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia/ Flickr.com

Cosby, however, has spoken out against these allegations, and has been disproving every allegation against him. “We are very confident that we will prevail,” Bill Cosby’s attorney told PEOPLE magazine.

As for his wife, a woman known for her own independent accomplishments, such as her contributions to a play called, “Having our Say,” and for her contribution in founding an organization called the National Visionary Leadership in 2001, has also been defending her husband, and has been denying every allegation made against him. She characterizes the allegations made against her husband as “a media frenzy, and not unlike those she’s seen before,” according to Serge F. Kovaleski and Colin Moynihan’s New York Times article, “Well Before Scandals, Cosby’s Wife Faulted Media Treatment of Blacks” on January 20.

Cosby’s wife speaking out on his behalf sends a whirlwind of emotions throughout those who have been following these alleged crimes against him over the years. Does Mrs. Cosby have a point? Is the media taking it a step too far? “In the end, in my opinion, I see Bill Cosby as a man who has a lot of money and fame and this might be something that these women want,” Brian Kenny, junior Secondary Education major said. Not only does the media have the power to put prominent figures in a negative light, but perhaps the money that these prominent figures have, have an impact on the way others choose to act.

Tamara Green, a retired attorney from California, has also claimed that she was drugged by Cosby and was groped in 1969, according Nicole Weissenee Eagan’s PEOPLE magazine, “Bill Cosby Accuser Tamara Green Files Defamation Lawsuit,” on December 10, 2014. Even though a lot of time has passed since she claims Cosby has sexually assaulted her, does this mean that her accusations are insignificant or invalidated? One may question why she has taken so long to come out with this story. “I believe that rape is such a terrible thing that occurs within our society. It’s hard for me to believe that there were multiple women who were allegedly raped by Bill Cosby if none of them went to the police straight away,” Kenny said.

It is difficult for us to put ourselves in a victim’s place. We’ll never really know their thoughts or feelings on the matter or the internal struggles they must be experiencing and their way of handling it, unless we’ve gone through these tragedies ourselves, but even then, everyone still may act differently. One can argue that, perhaps, they were too afraid of speaking up, or didn’t know how to handle the situation. Perhaps,this is why it has taken so long for these accusations to surface.

 

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Photo Credit: Sweetie187/Flickr.com

It is hard for people to believe these accusations against Cosby because of whom he was in his career, the many years that have passed since the alleged incidents and the fact that no criminal charges have been brought against him. Some of us are left dumbfounded and afraid after hearing such horrible accusations, while others feel as though it is just one of those rumors that can’t possibly be true.

If these accusations are proven to be true, will this change the way we look at every celebrity? Will we be able to accept that being a celebrity does not make you impervious to any wrongdoing? But after all, no matter how famous, how brilliant, how entertaining, they are still only human. Some find it hard to believe accusations made against celebrities like Cosby because it is sometimes common for people, especially celebrities, to be falsely accused. “If someone I looked up to in society was accused of rape or child molestation I would hope that it wasn’t true. I would continue believing that it wasn’t true until the person accused was proven guilty,” Supinsky said.

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Regrettably for Collins, who was known for his role as Reverend Eric Camden on the hit show 7th Heaven, the allegations have proven to be true. Unlike Cosby, who has denied all wrongdoing, Collins has come forward to publicly apologize for his misbehavior due to details of his past being leaked in the process of his divorce from his wife Faye Grant, according to Lisa Respers France’s CNN article, “7th Heaven Actor Stephen Collins: ‘I did something terribly wrong,” on December 18, 2014.

Grant claims that Collins admitted to have molested underage women in a therapy session on November 2012. However, it is no longer a case of “he said, she said.” Grant released the audio recording and TMZ has posted the actual audio recording on their website.

Collins admitted to having inappropriate sexual conduct among young women, and has apologized deeply, according to Lynette Rice’s PEOPLE magazine article, “Stephen Collins Publicly Apologizes for Sexual Abuse: Experts Weight In,” on December 17, 2014. This could potentially lift a large weight off of his victim’s shoulders, possibly putting them at peace for undergoing these circumstances.

Because of Collins, the three women he has inappropriately acted towards will never forget this traumatizing memory. Not only was he a loving father on 7th Heaven, but he was also a reverend on the show. When we think of our fathers and religious figures, we feel comforted in the fact that these individuals protect us. It is almost like a paradox to Stephen Collins’ life, as well as Bill Cosby’s life, because both of them are accused of being the complete opposite of the characters that they have portrayed for many years.

We tend to paint these prominent figures in the same light as their characters, assuming that if they play such an important role, such as the loving father figure of a family that they could never possibly be anything other than whom they play on screen. It is common that we separate celebrities from ourselves because they seem godlike compared to people in our everyday lives. It is possible that prominent figures can also be sick and deluded. One can only hope that those affected will receive justice, and that we will begin to break the barrier that we have created between actor and character.

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Photo Credit: myrddin irwin/Flickr.com

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