While I have reposted a couple of articles on the subject, I wasn’t going to write about Bill Cosby or the subject of serial rape; there are enough articles and editorials on this subject. What has now made me decide to join the fray is a recent statement by a friend of his that “this isn’t about the women, this is about the legacy” - of Bill Cosby.
That comment alluded to a psychological aspect of this story that is worth exploring. If Bill Cosby turns out to be guilty of these charges, then how was a man who exemplified so much that was good and progressive, able to commit such base crimes against women? Is Bill Cosby two different people, and if so, who is the real Bill Cosby?

We all have various sides to our personality. These different aspects of our being are sometimes contradictory but usually not so starkly different that it is impossible to comprehend how the same person could exhibit both behaviors or thought processes. And when that happens we usually refer to these people in derogative or diagnostic terms such as psycho, schizo or sociopath labels that can be crude or simplistic generalizations.

Mr. Cosby’s case reminds me of a story that made national headlines in the late 1980’s. A young Black man from Harlem had overcome poverty, and an environment of gangs & drugs to gain admittance to Harvard University. The 1980’s were a time when that was still considered an unusual achievement. While the young man was home on Spring break, two (White) police officers got into a scuffle with a couple of unidentified youths in Harlem and one was killed. Days later, the Harvard student was arrested for the police officer’s murder, and the Black community was up in arms. The Establishment was trying to bring down one of their best and brightest. There were protests and violent confrontations.

Many publications wrote sympathetic stories about the rampant racism that still existed in the City. But to the amazement of many, it turned out that the young man was not falsely charged. He had in fact killed the police officer. And he killed him, not because he felt his life was being threatened, but because he was sick of being hassled and he exploded. He was tired of carefully walking a fine line and being the perfect young Black man. He felt split in half. There was the overachiever - the smart, ambitious and clever young man who had risen out of the ghetto. And then there was the disassociated other, someone who had been stuffing his anger. Someone who felt as if he didn’t belong anywhere, dangling between two worlds, he would never be White but he could no longer fit comfortably into his own community. The mantle of “role model” left him alone and lost, powerful in his achievements, but powerless nonetheless. The anger that had been quietly building inside of him had to go somewhere. And unfortunately, it exploded on that particular night with that particular cop.

Around that same time, I came across other stories, psychological profiles not unlike that one. What was specific to these profiles was a feeling of being caught between two worlds, and the fact that all of these individuals were part of a minority culture (race or gender) as well as from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who went on to excel above and beyond. Bill Cosby fits that profile.

While having come from modest means, he rose during the civil rights era to become an unusually successful man, achieving great wealth, fame and even adulation. He was a trailblazer who wisely tailored his image as that of a lovable Everyman, cultivating an inclusive, non-threatening facade while projecting himself as a role model to his own community. He gained prestige and additional respect through his philanthropic endeavors. And yet, it is possible that there was something else going on, something underneath – another persona – the angry one. He could have been secretly acting out his rage with these women. It has been said that, “rape is not about sex, it is about power”. The behavior the women have described is an amplified version of that theory. It wasn’t enough to simply force himself on them, he had to literally knock them out, make them prone.

I am, of course, speculating. Bill Cosby has not been proven guilty. He may never be proven guilty. But the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. I believe the women.
So what about his legacy? It is about the women; it is as much about them as it is about everything else he ever did or achieved.

Roni Weisberg-Ross LMFT

Author's Bio: 

West Los Angeles based psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of abuse (emotional, sexual, physical), trauma and communication/relationship issues.