By: Darlene Masters, Executive Director at Family Advocates
Bill Cosby is not an innocent man. He was convicted of sexual assault. A mere technicality set him free. Do not be mistaken by this. The decision to release him shows the work we need to do to help close loopholes in the justice system. Is there something we can do now? Yes! We can speak out and let survivors know that we believe them. We can offer a listening ear to those in need. We can offer support and encouragement to survivors. A simple “I believe you” can go a long way.
Often times victims feel that no one will believe them or that the sexual assault(s) was their fault. Victims feel guilt, shame, betrayal, fear (and the list goes on), but having someone simply tell them that they believe them is affirming. The courage to come forward and tell another person about a most violating event or series of events that took place without permission takes a tremendous amount of courage.
Some victims choose to never tell anyone about what has happened to them and live with the fear, shame and guilt. Others choose to only tell a close friend or family member but do not want to tell a stranger or the police. Yet some reach out for professional help at agencies such as Family Advocates to receive support. Additionally, there are medical services that victims seek in receiving a Sexual Assault Nurse Exam at a local hospital such as Southwest Health in Platteville. An advocate responds to the hospital to provide support in this setting as well. It is always the victims’ choice (unless a minor) of whether to report to the police or not. We, at Family Advocates, support the victims’ decision in making the report or choosing not to do so at this time.
Sexual assault is one of the most personal crimes that anyone can commit. Survivors need support to begin and work through the healing journey. When high profile cases such as the Bill Cosby case take a turn for the worse, this is very disheartening for survivors and speaks volumes to the errors in society. Do not be discouraged (I’m speaking to you and me too). What happened to you is not your fault. What happened to you is real and no one should ever touch you, harass you, belittle you or violate you. Your body is yours – no one else’s. You are not what happened to you. You are a beautiful soul that needs healing. I believe you.
**If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and is in need of support,
please reach out to us at 800-924-2624.