Here’s What She’d Tell Bill Cosby Today – from a friend of GFB

This article, originally published on The Daily Beast, is from friend of GFB and speaker on the Kirkland Productions roster, Dean Obeidallah:

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In an interview, one of the women who has accused Cosby of assault talks about what happened, what she’d tell him, and how she coped.

“I’d tell him that he’s pathetic,” she said, and then added: “And I’d tell him: You are powerless, and rape is about power, and now you don’t have that power.”

These were the poignant words of Kristina Ruehli, one of the women who has accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, as she explained to me what she would tell Cosby if she could speak to him today. I spoke to Ruehli on Sunday by phone and was amazed by her triumphant tone. This is not a woman who wants pity, nor does she want money, or even an apology from Cosby.

Rather, Ruehli wants two things: to prevent other women from being sexually assaulted and to see Cosby be brought to justice in some form. And it’s clear that she feels that there has been great progress on both fronts.

Ruehli, who is now 71 and lives with her husband in New Hampshire, is unique among the Cosby victims in that she is woman No. 1 in the chronology of when the alleged sexual assaults occurred. She claims that in 1965, while she was working as a secretary at a talent agency, Cosby invited her and an unnamed actress to his house for a party. A party for three that is, because when she arrived with the actress, no one else was at the party.

Cosby offered her a drink. The next thing she recalls was waking up in bed with Cosby, who she alleges was trying to force his penis into her mouth. She fought Cosby off, ran to the bathroom where she vomited, and then fled the house.

In our conversation, the terms “power” and “powerlessness” came up frequently. In Ruehli’s view, the person who commits the sexual assault has the power and the victims tend to feel powerless. As she explained, you feel alone and start to blame yourself. Why was I so stupid? Did I do something to lead him on?

Adding to the feeling of powerlessness for the woman is that Cosby is a beloved celebrity. Questions like “Will people even believe me?” start running through your head. And there is the additional fear in these types of cases that the public will vilify the victim, not a celebrity wrongdoer. As Ruehli noted, when a woman alleges rape charges against a celebrity, it isn’t “15 minutes of fame” but rather “15 minutes of shame.”

Ruehli added that Cosby’s silence in the face of these allegations has “ceded the power to the women.”
In Ruehli’s case, she was concerned that she would lose her job at the talent agency if she had gone public with the accusations, so she didn’t tell the authorities. It’s clearly understandable why, after the incident, Ruehli felt ashamed, alone, and powerless.

But those feelings are long gone. The fact that so many women have come forward to reveal allegations of sexual misconduct by Cosby has, in a sense, created a support network for these women. It’s no longer a story of victimhood, but one of empowerment. They are now in essence a sisterhood joined together by a vile incident.

I asked her if she thought Cosby would come forward at some point to address the allegations. Ruehli laughingly responded, “He doesn’t have the balls.” She added that Cosby’s silence in the face of these allegations has “ceded the power to the women.”

Ruehli, who is a law school graduate but not a practicing attorney, was one of the 13 “Jane Does” in the civil lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand in 2005 alleging that Cosby had sexually assaulted her. Ruehli explained to me that she read about the lawsuit in The New York Times and then reached out to Constand’s lawyer.

“It was like an epiphany—I realized I wasn’t alone,” she remarked. She felt compelled to come forward because the allegations in that case seem similar to her own regarding Cosby. She wanted to make sure that Constand knew that she wasn’t alone either.

While Ruehli is “thrilled” that on Friday the Los Angeles Police Department opened up an investigation into recent allegations by Judy Huth that Cosby forced her to perform oral sex on him when she was only 15, she understands that it’s unlikely that he will be prosecuted criminally at this time. But there’s a sense that these women coming forward have made a positive difference.

Ruehli believes the Constand lawsuit, which was covered at the time by the national media, may have saved many other women from a similar fate. As she noted, there have been no other known incidents of alleged sexual misconduct by Cosby that postdate the 2005 lawsuit. (Constant’s claim was settled in 2006, when Cosby paid Constand an undisclosed amount.)

But just preventing women from being assaulted is not enough. When I asked Ruehli what she hoped would happen to Cosby, she quoted these lines from a poem by Sir Walter Scott, that he “shall go down to the vile dust from whence he sprung, unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.”

With Cosby’s loss of TV deals, the cancellation of comedy shows, and the destruction of his reputation, I’d say Cosby is almost there.

Security?

In the grand tradition of this wonderful holiday weekend I was spending some quality time recovering on my couch, next to the fire, sifting through decorations. I was hoping someone had started to air “A Christmas Story” and was flipping through the channels when I came across the show “I Survived”. The episode featured a young lawyer named Jennifer Morey.

Jennifer lived alone and chose her apartment complex, in part, because of the protection provided by on site security guards. She was just starting her career, working long and late hours and always felt safe knowing a guard was there.

That safety was tested on April 15, 1995 when she awoke to find a man on top of her. She realized she was going to be raped and began to fight her attacker, a man who used her first name, but whom she did not recognize. During the struggle her attacker cut her throat almost from ear to ear. He then pulled her off the bed and threw her in the bathroom. Likely believing she would bleed to death, he told her to stay in there. Even after putting up such a fight and losing blood quickly, Jennifer was still able to use her lower body strength to keep the door closed with her feet until she believed her attacker had left and would not come for her again. She then ran from the bathroom and called 911.

Richard Everett was the dispatcher who picked up the line and together they began to try to save Jennifer’s life. He told her to add pressure to the wound, that help was on the way and tried to keep her calm. During the call, Jennifer heard a knock at the door. The man identified himself as Bryan Gibson, the security guard on duty. Jennifer told Richard that it was security and asked if she should open the door. The advice he gave her at that moment, based on intuition, was likely the most crucial thing he did that saved her life that night…DO NOT open the door.

Fortunately, Jennifer did not have to wait too long as police and ambulance arrived shortly after. They were greeted by the on duty security guard Bryan Gibson, who told them that he too had fought off the attacker after he escaped from Jennifer’s apartment. After reviewing the crime scene and Gibson’s injuries it wasn’t long before police realized that it was Gibson who was the attacker. He had left behind some crucial items at the scene. It’s believed he went back to Jennifer’s apartment when he realized this. To this day, Jennifer believes she would have been killed had she opened that door.

This may not have been the wonderful holiday movie I was searching for, but this story really stuck with me. Richard Beckett had no reason to think that the man at the door, whose job it was to protect the complex, was there to cause any harm. His intuition and quick thinking kept Jennifer safe.

Jennifer survived and began to rebuild her life. She won a civil lawsuit against the security company Gibson, who had twice been re-assigned because of behavior issues, worked for. In fact, from 1991- 1995 this security firm employed 130 guards that had felony records ( I’ll spend a little time on that in a future post). She is now a successful lawyer with her own practice. She met and married the man of her dreams a few years after the attack.

 Richard Beckett was at her wedding and they remain close friends to this day…