As soon as The Cosby Show debuted on NBC in September 1984, its main star was catapulted into the comedic stratosphere. William Henry Cosby Junior, more famously known as Bill Cosby, produced and starred in the American sitcom, leading it to quickly become the country’s number one show—at least until the very beginning of the 90s. That being said, if you’re looking for more praises on the man, while any mention of his many sexual assault allegations is completely ignored, then you’ll find Cosby’s biography, titled Cosby: His Life and Times and written by former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, perfect for you.
If you’d like to learn more about the sexual abuse allegations that have dogged Cosby for years, however, and why exactly he just got freed, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a complete timeline of the abuse charges made against ‘America’s dad’.
Andrea Constand, director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team, allegedly met with the actor. Constand claims that Cosby, who had been a member of Temple’s track and field and football teams, assumed a role as her mentor.
According to Constand, she visited Cosby at his home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, to discuss career advice. After allegedly (according to a civil lawsuit she would later file) giving her “herbal” pills to ease her anxiety, Cosby “touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated” her.
Constand, who had since moved near Toronto to study massage therapy, accuses Cosby of “inappropriate touching”—groping her breasts and placing her hand on his genitals—to Canadian authorities. Cosby’s lawyer calls her allegation “utterly preposterous” and “plainly bizarre.”
At the time, ABC News reports that the interaction between Constand and Cosby—who is at this point cooperating with the investigation—might have been consensual.
Another woman, Tamara Green, a California lawyer, appears on the Today show and alleges that Cosby also drugged and sexually assaulted her in the 70s. Green tells news anchor Matt Lauer that Cosby, who had given her pills to combat a fever, drove her to her apartment and began “groping me and kissing me and touching me and handling me and […] taking off my clothes.”
According to Green, Cosby left two $100 bills on her coffee table afterwards. Cosby’s lawyer issues a statement: “Miss Green’s allegations are absolutely false. Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or Tamara Lucier [her maiden name], and the incident she describes did not happen. The fact that she may have repeated this story to others is not corroboration.”
A week after, citing a lack of evidence, the investigating district attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, announces he will not act on Constand’s accusation and bring criminal charges against Cosby.
Constand files a civil complaint against Cosby. The five-count lawsuit charges Cosby with battery and assault, and asks for at least $150,000 in damages. Thirteen women who allege similar experiences are mentioned in court papers as Jane Doe witnesses.
In Constand’s lawsuit, she alleges that the comedian gave her three blue pills, which he said was “herbal medication.” Cosby’s lawyers, however, issue a court filing and attempt to clarify that the comedian merely gave Constand one and a half tablets of Benadryl.
A month after, Jane Doe goes public. Beth Ferrier claims she was in a relationship with Cosby during the mid-1980s, one that ended when he allegedly drugged her coffee and Ferrier woke in a car. “My clothes were a mess. My bra was undone. My top was untucked. And I’m sitting there going, ‘Oh my God. Where am I? What’s going on?’ I was so out of it. It was just awful.”
Philadelphia Magazine interviews another witness in Constand’s lawsuit, Barbara Bowman. “Cosby threw me on the bed and braced his forearm against my neck and attempted to disrobe me and himself,” she said in another Philadelphia interview later that year. “I can still remember him messing with his belt. And I was screaming and crying and yelling and begging him to stop.”
The following month, People publishes Bowman’s account of several assaults: “It was in a hotel in Reno, claims Bowman, that Cosby assaulted her one night in 1986. ‘He took my hand and his hand over it, and he masturbated with his hand over my hand,’ says Bowman, who, although terrified, kept quiet about the incident and continued as Cosby’s protégé because, she says, ‘Who’s gonna believe this? He was a powerful man. He was like the president.’ Before long she was alone with Cosby again in his Manhattan townhouse; she was given a glass of red wine, and “the next thing I know, I’m sick and I’m nauseous and I’m delusional and I’m limp and I can’t think straight. And I just came to, and I’m wearing a T-shirt that wasn’t mine, and he was in a white robe’.”
That same People article reports that three of the Jane Does from the March 2005 case accepted cash from Cosby for years, and two others began consensual sexual relationships with Cosby.
Cosby settles with Constand. Terms are not disclosed, and none of the 13 other women testifies.
Ten years after the first accusations made against Cosby, Comedian Hannibal Buress does an extended bit about the rape charges in the actor’s home town of Philadelphia. “Bill Cosby has the fucking smuggest old black man public persona that I hate,” Buress says. “Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the 80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom. Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches.” A clip of the set goes viral, and to battle the bad press, Cosby’s PR team launches an online meme generator. Twitter is immediately inundated with references to the rape claims.
Three days after this failed PR stunt, Bowman writes an article published in The Washington Post, titled ‘Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?’. In it, she notes that “only after a man called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest.”
A new accuser, Joan Tarshis, alleges that Cosby drugged and assaulted her on two occasions in 1969. The next day, Linda Joy Traitz, a former waitress at Cosby’s Café Figaro, writes a lengthy Facebook post accusing the actor of trying to drug her in the early 70s. She says the incident occurred when Cosby drove her home one night: “He drove out to the beach and opened a briefcase filled with assorted drugs and kept offering me pills ‘to relax,’ which I declined. He began to get sexually aggressive and wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. I freaked out and demanded to be taken home.”
The following day, on 18 November 2014, supermodel Janice Dickinson becomes the next woman to accuse Cosby of sexual abuse, saying the comedian drugged and raped her in 1982. She recalls Cosby giving her wine and a pill, which he told her were for menstrual cramps.
Shortly after, more accusers come out, such as Carla Ferrigno, Louisa Moritz, Theresa Serignese, Kristina Ruehli, Renita Chaney Hill, Angela Leslie, and former Playmate Victoria Valentino.
Former The Cosby Show employee Frank Scotti says he was in charge of delivering payoffs to eight different women. In his words, “It was a coverup.” Scotti also claims that he stood guard outside Cosby’s dressing room while the comedian conducted “interviews” with young models, all supplied by an agency he had an “arrangement” with.
As more Jane Does continue to come out with additional allegations against Cosby, Whitacker, author of the Cosby biography, apologises on Twitter for not including the sexual assault allegations in his book.
More and more victims come out, and in his most direct response to the accusations yet, Cosby tells Page Six he expects “the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism [and] go in with a neutral mind.” Two days after, Cosby’s wife, Camille Cosby speaks out for the first time. “The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work,” she says in a statement. “A different man has been portrayed in the media over the last two months. It is the portrait of a man I do not know.” Cosby also writes that she wishes the media would spend more time vetting her husband’s accusers.
The following day, Cosby’s daughter Evin releases her own statement, which mirrors her mother’s. Shortly after, actress Kathy McKee accuses Cosby of raping her in the early 1970s. Three other accusers come out.
At the Golden Globes, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do a Cosby bit during their monologue. Reaction in the room, and online, is mixed, to say the least.
The LAPD announces that it will investigate Chloe Goins’ claim that Cosby assaulted her in 2008. Her accusation is the first to fall within California’s statute of limitations.
Up until 30 December 2015, nearly 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault. On that day, prosecutors in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County charged Cosby with three counts of sexual assault in the Andrea Constand case—the first criminal charges the actor has faced since the allegations surfaced. The statute of limitations in the alleged 2004 assault reportedly runs out in January 2016. At his arraignment, Cosby surrenders his passport and is released on $1 million bail.
Cosby was only tried criminally for the incident against Constand. His conviction in 2018 was widely seen as a landmark moment in the #MeToo movement. However, in a verdict issued on Wednesday 30 June 2021, Pennsylvania’s highest court found there was a “process violation” because Cosby’s lawyers had made an agreement with a previous state prosecutor that he would not be charged in the case.
The former actor appears frail as he slowly walks to waiting media outside his home, shortly after being released from prison. He does not say anything, instead leaning on his team of lawyers and spokesman Andrew Wyatt to answer questions. “On this hot day, this is a hot verdict for us,” Wyatt said.
“Mr Cosby has always used his celebrity and his name to uplift women… How could a man who is being watched by the FBI every day be raping and drugging women… especially a black man?” he adds. Off-camera, fans of Cosby can be heard yelling their support throughout the media conference.
Earlier this month, after a long and traumatising court case in Cyprus, a young British rape victim was finally allowed to return home. This event sparked international outrage and opened up the conversation concerning the many ways in which the justice system fails women and victims of rape. But the outrage is now beginning to slowly fizzle out, and it is important that we carry on the conversation around justice and women’s rights, to ensure that situations like these do not happen again.
In case you’re not aware of what happened, in the summer of 2019, while on a working holiday, a nineteen-year-old British woman reported being raped by twelve men in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. The woman said she met an Israeli man with whom she got romantically involved on this holiday, and one night, while in the room with him, his friends came and took turns assaulting her and filming it. But a little over a week later, she was the one to get arrested, charged for mischief and jailed for a month.
The victim later revealed that the police had forced her to change her account, leaving her with no choice but to retract her original statement. The woman admitted that she only signed the retraction after hours of unrecorded questioning, without a lawyer present. The next day, the men accused were released and flew back to Tel Aviv, where they were greeted with champagne, celebrating their release while chanting ‘the Brit is a whore’. While this is immensely appalling, what’s more terrifying is how the justice system dealt with the situation and failed the victim.
The court completely dismissed all the defence witnesses, including a statement from a forensic specialist proving she had thirty-five bruises over her body, exerted by force—disregarding them as jellyfish stings. The court also reportedly dismissed a statement from the teenager’s psychologist that proved she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The district judge dismissed her testimony as “childish lies.” Of course, the case is complex but it is uncertain why the police made her retract her statement with no legal expert present, and it is also not the first time that the Cypriot police fails foreign women.
In April 2019, Cyprus dealt with the arrest of its first known and discovered serial killer, a man who only seemed to target immigrant working women, killing a total of seven. Many of these murders could have been easily avoided, as some of his victims were reported missing to the police in 2016, nearly three years prior to discovering their remains, and yet, nothing was done to look for them. This case yet again sparked international outrage, calling the country out for its treatment of immigrant women.
In the British woman’s case, after enduring a long trial full of victim-blaming and humiliation, the court decided to release her and let her return home, with the court’s judge ruling it as a “second chance.” And while for many this can be seen as a resolution and the end to the young girl’s trial, it is really only the beginning of a lifetime of trauma and PTSD caused by both the sexual assault and this trial.
Having grown up in Cyprus as a woman myself, the way the woman was treated did not come as a shock. My friends and I started getting catcalled on the streets at the age of eleven, we have been followed, flashed and masturbated to on public beaches in broad daylight as teenagers on separate occasions, and many of my acquaintances have endured similar sexual assault horror stories, such as this one.
Many of these assaults have gone unreported, and when they have, they had been dismissed as something that simply happens because “you are a girl,” and which you should therefore get over. But these issues are not exclusive to a single country, and sexism, sexual harassment and abuse of any sex or gender exist in every part of the world. And this is the problem, the fact that the Cypriot rape case is just another reminder of many other cases like it.
The justice system is flawed in every country, and trusting that it always makes the right decisions would be naive and inaccurate. But we need to keep calling these situations out: they happen everywhere, in small countries like Cyprus or major ones like the US—just remember the Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh case. This specific incident is now being forgotten, and perhaps it is a good thing to finally let the woman out of public sight. But this doesn’t mean we should let our justice systems get away with how badly these cases are often handled.