Beverly Johnson’s Vanity Fair article describing Bill Cosby’s assault on her is not brave

beverly.johnsonSupermodel Beverly Johnson has joined the growing list of women who claim to have been drugged and assaulted by Bill Cosby.  In the December 11 Vanity Fair, Johnson describes how she and her daughter visited the Cosby Show set in the 1980s and her subsequent meeting alone with the comedian in the house he shared with his wife Camille. 

Johnson concisely tells how Cosby urged her to drink fresh coffee.  Immediately after quaffing the brew against her express preference – it was late and she wanted to get a good night’s sleep – the room began to spin and she felt dizzy.  Cosby began to grope her but she disengaged and tried to flee.  He then wrenched Johnson’s arm while throwing her down the stairs.  She escaped.

With commendable candor, Johnson explains why she didn’t go to the police or media:

How could I fight someone that boldly arrogant and out of touch? In the end, just like the other women, I had too much to lose to go after Bill Cosby. I had a career that would no doubt take a huge hit if I went public with my story and I certainly couldn’t afford that after my costly divorce and on going court fees.

Johnson also states plausibly: “I thought [Cosby’s assault] was something that only happened to me, and that I was somehow responsible.”  Now however, Johnson writes, “the last four weeks have changed everything, as so many women have shared similar stories, of which the press have belatedly taken heed.”

Johnson explains her recent decision to publicize Cosby’s assault by reference to her work with sexually abused children. “I watch in awe of their bravery as they work to recover and feel better. How could I be any less brave?”

I admire Johnson’s honest accounting of her conflicted feelings in the aftermath of Cosby’s assault on her. I believe her when she says that she thought she was Cosby’s only victim and do believe it was truly brave of Beverly Johnson to fight Cosby after he had drugged her and was trying to rape her.

Nevertheless, I reject her self-aggrandizing final sentence.  It was not brave of Johnson to write about what Cosby did to her nearly three decades after the fact and after many other women have already come forward.

Willingly facing tough questions from skeptical police would have been brave.  Risking her career by challenging a rich and powerful man would have been brave.  Doing whatever she could to protect potential future victims from a sexual predator would have been brave.  Sadly, Beverly Johnson demonstrated less admirable traits after she escaped Cosby’s clutches.

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5 Responses to Beverly Johnson’s Vanity Fair article describing Bill Cosby’s assault on her is not brave

  1. Shade says:

    Are you taking a page out of my book & posting as a contrarian to make people think & not always reflexively respond to issues based only on their previously established political bent? This post of yours was definitely written from a man’s “blame the victim” perspective.

    I & many other thinking/caring individuals see abuses everyday in the workplace that should be brought to light. However, very few of us are willing to destroy our careers & go “Snowden”. In fact, very few of us are willing to jump on even at the point that doing so might help create an unstoppable snowball.

    On the specific topics of sexual harassment &/or sexual assault, I suspect that at some point the majority of women experience this in the workplace and/or in their interrelated personal lives but they don’t report it. Are you really saying that any victim that does not report is a coward and that it is their fault that such behaviors by men hasn’t stopped?

    In Johnson’s case, you can be sure that Cosby would have denied that he drugged anyone. Given Cosby’s money, power, & public admiration, Johnson would have been permanently labeled as a gold digger (and worse). Johnson’s career would have been destroyed because if for no other reason than to protect themselves, no man in a position of power would ever dare to associate themselves with her.

  2. halginsberg says:

    Nope. I stand by what I wrote. I don’t believe she would have been labeled a gold digger if she had gone straight to the police, had a blood test done, and sworn out an affidavit. Moreover, she could have made clear that she wasn’t in it for the money. Bravery means risking something to protect somebody.

    • Shade says:

      The most common response of rape victims is to go home and shower much of the evidence away. You expected Johnson to fully analyze the situation, realize for 1000% sure that she had been drugged, and go to the police to make life-altering accusations (that likely even she herself found difficult to believe) – all while sick as a dog & just wanting to go home to sleep the drug off.

      There are perhaps other aspects to Johnson’s story that we don’t fully understand. I heard one generally reliable caller to KGO (who says she knows Johnson) say that primarily due to drug use, Johnson did not have an impeccable background that she would have wanted Cosby to make public at that time. A subsequent seemingly knowledgeable caller said he felt Johnson was reluctant to come forward at that time because she previously had made similar accusations against two other persons with whom she had relationships, & in those two cases the general consensus was that she had lied.

      Abuse victims often go on to form relationships with other abusers, and Cosby probably picked his victims well. There is likely much to their relationship that we don’t know (and no still means no regardless). I have no interest to investigate Johnson’s past, but I have little reason to doubt the accuracy of what I presented above either – it is typical of show business.

      Not many are able to live up to your expectations about such things Hal, which is why Cosby got away with his behavior for so long. Do you understand that to get ahead in society, women must often play on their sexual attractiveness, but when they do & then say no, they are frequently not believed? Why don’t you ask the women in your life how they feel? I think you will find the gender divide will be similar to the racial divide that even I have some trouble with (mainly because the race issue often gets pressed forward with a poor choice of a posterchild; overall statistics clearly show that such discrimination exists).

  3. Shade says:

    I reread what we both wrote & skimmed the Vanity Fair article for the first time. I might agree that instead of Johnson saying “How could I be any less brave?”, she might have more appropriately said “How could I continue to be afraid?”

    However, I don’t think it is fair that you are parsing the nuance of Johnson’s words so precisely & using this against her when Johnson was was so clearly a sexual assault victim. This suggests to me a misogynistic lack of understanding & compassion re how women so frequently respond to such ordeals and the conflicts they so frequently struggle with.

    In reading the article, I also realized that the cliche phrase “How could I be any less brave” might have only been used as a literary tool to concisely punctuate and conclude the Vanity Fair article in an emotionally powerful way. The exact words may not have been those of Johnson herself, but instead may have been selected by a Vanity Fair ghost writer or editor.

    In fairness though, I have also been accused of being a misogynist at times. I have issues with women that dress in an inappropriately provocative way &/or those that flirt with men and lead them on for their own personal gain (especially in the workplace). While such women don’t deserve to be assaulted or raped, I do feel it is somewhat unfair when women that do this later protest the elicited response claiming complete and absolute innocence. Such behavior by both genders is also unfair to other workers in the workplace that don’t involve themselves in such inappropriate behaviors.

    In the case of Johnson & Cosby, clearly Cosby’s alleged actions were criminal. However, it is unknown what level of flirtation had occurred up to that point (if any) that resulted in Johnson being exposed to this apparent predator. One also has to keep in mind that this is a showbiz case, and in this industry it is almost impossible for women to get ahead unless they make the most of their legitimate (and often their seedy) opportunities.

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