"Who the hell would have believed me?" Barbara Bowman, one of the 40 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, recently told New York magazine about why she remained silent for decades. "Nobody, nobody."
Bowman was one of 35 women featured in a recent profile in the magazine of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault. Like Bowman, many of the women spoke out about their decision to go public after years of being silenced.
On Friday, however, Cosby fought back — albeit indirectly through his attorney Monique Pressley. While Pressley has spoken to the press before, she joined HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hill to offer unprecedented insight into how Cosby's legal team regards his case. Most alarmingly, it seems Pressley and the legal team upholding the same cycle of victim-blaming that Bowman and dozens of other women said kept them from pursuing justice and speaking out by attempting to discredit the survivors of Cosby's alleged crimes.
When Lamont Hill said only an estimated 2% to 8% of survivors lie about surviving assault, Pressley noted that studies asserting this low rate haven't accounted for factors she sees as influencing this case, such as "a very wealthy person who is alleged as the perpetrator of the crime," as well as "prior relationship" and whether the accusers have previously "offered their bodies up for casting" or could potentially face "monetary gain" from selling their story. "People are willing to say many things in order to get money," she added.
Although Lamont Hill said many survivors don't come forward because they fear they won't be believed, Pressley disagreed that this notion held true in Cosby's case. Specifically, she invoked the racial dynamics of the case.
"I find it hard to believe a majority of white females saying an African-American male did this, [that] none of them would have been believed," Pressley said, especially considering they "would have been coming forward in the late '60s and early '70s" and "Bill Cosby was then, as he is now, a black man in America."
"He would have been target No. 1 in those days, and I'd argue in these days," Pressley said.
Ultimately, Pressley claimed too much time had lapsed between the alleged acts and many women's decisions to speak out for their claims to be accounted for now — and the fault inherent to that fact is theirs.
"If a woman believes she was raped but doesn't go to a hospital, even if she's not willing to go to police stations ... then we never know the truth of the matter," Pressley said, noting a case in which a woman claims, "'I was drugged and I think something may have happened to me, but I'm not sure'" should "never go forward in the court of law for good reason."
"Women have a responsibility," she concluded. "We have responsibility for our bodies, we have responsibility for our decisions, we have responsibility for the way we conduct ourselves." But saying women cannot receive legal justice for a crime committed against them based on the way they acted is not victim-blaming, she asserted. "That's not blaming," she said, adding at women must come forward in order for their alleged assailants "to be held accountable."
Pressley's essential claim that these survivors should not be able to pursue or ultimately receive justice for the crimes they say they experienced because they didn't speak out is, circuitously, the crux of what kept them from speaking out in the first place. Her deductive understanding of the complex context that encouraged their silence, which extends far beyond simply ignoring their "responsibility," destructively contributes to a culture that has and likely will continue to discourage survivors from speaking out.
Cosby may be entitled to a fair defense under the U.S. justice system. But his defense, as well as the case itself, must take his actions — including purchasing drugs with the intention of giving them to women, for example — into account. The actions of the survivors cannot and should not be the only ones interrogated.
You can watch the full interview with Pressley below: