Three more women have come forward alleging that they, too, were in some way sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby. Carla Ferrigno, Angela Leslie and Louisa Moritz’s reports bring the total number of women who have publicly identified themselves as victims of Cosby’s sexual abuse to eleven. However, it is unclear if the eleven women who have come forward publicly were included in the group of anonymous victims in the Constand case; as such, the total number of women to come forward (publicly or anonymously) may in fact be much higher than eleven.
Actress Angela Leslie says Cosby sexually assaulted her in a Las Vegas hotel room in 1992. She told the New York Daily News, “With his hand on top of mine, [Cosby] had me massage his penis. … I wasn’t pulling back. I was in shock. … I felt so used.”
Louisa Moritz, a former actress, stated that Cosby sexually assaulted her by forcing her to perform oral sex on him in a green room in 1971, shortly before going on the Johnny Carson “Tonight Show.” After the assault, Cosby turned to her and said, “Now you don’t want to upset me and the plans for your future, do you?” Until now, Ms. Moritz never spoke of the abuse.
In an interview with The John and Ken Show, Carla Ferrigno recalled an evening in 1967 when she went on a double-date with Cosby and his wife. After dinner, she and her date went to the Cosby home to play billiards. At some point, Ms. Ferrigno found herself alone with the famous comedian, and he suddenly attacked her. Ms. Ferrigno stated: “He was much bigger than me. Much bigger and he pulled me so hard and so rough. I had never been treated so roughly … And then kissed me so hard, right in the mouth. No one has ever been that physically violent with me. I was stunned. I was frozen.”
These three reports join the growing list of the hauntingly similar allegations against Cosby. In 2005, Andrea Constand filed a lawsuit against Cosby, claiming that he drugged and raped her in 2004. Not long after, Tamara Green went on the “Today Show” and told her story of Cosby’s sexual abuse. Twelve other women were prepared to testify to their similar experiences with Cosby as anonymous witnesses in the Constand case. These women never had a chance to take the stand, as the lawsuit later settled for an undisclosed amount.
One by one, however, more women have come forward to publicly identify themselves, including Barbara Bowman, Beth Ferrier, Joan Tarshis, Janice Dickenson, and just days ago, Therese Serignese.
Ms. Serignese gave an interview to WPTV of West Palm Beach, in which she described how Cosby drugged and raped her in 1976, when she was 19 years old. Ms. Serignese spoke of the pain and trauma of the experience and how it still affects her 38 years later: “It’s always going to make me feel teary-eyed; the pain never goes away. The betrayal of my trust.”
No amount of consolation can ever take back the painful experiences these women have endured. But by listening, respecting, and believing victims, it is possible to help make these womens’ lives – as well as the lives of all sexual abuse survivors – better.
To quote O’Donnell Clark and Crew Partner Peter Janci, “when allegations of sexual abuse arise against someone we respect, there is often a knee-jerk response of wanting to deny that it could be true. [However, such] denial propagates an environment where sexual abuse continues[.] [Denial] embolden[s] abusers and communicat[es] to the victim that we aren’t interested in her/his story. Our society has effective processes for discovering the truth; we need to believe and support victims who come forward while those processes run their course.”
It may be difficult to accept, and many may not want to believe the victims’ stories, but that difficulty pales in comparison to the difficulty and trauma experienced by sexual abuse survivors. If we are to help victims, the first step is to believe them. Only by so doing may we begin to make the world a safer, kinder place for us all.