One of the biggest stories in the news this week surrounds the allegations of sexual assault by world-famous comedian, Bill Cosby. I must admit that my first reaction to the news story was an immediate feeling that these allegations cannot be true. But the truth is, you never know.
People need to realize that there is no common "face" of a sexual predator. And if it did have a face, it would be far more likely to look like the kind, friendly, trustworthy face that is a master at avoiding suspicion.
This fact makes people uncomfortable. Why? Because we all want to believe that we are safe in the world. ...that we can predict who could harm us or our children, and keep ourselves safe by avoiding them. But the truth is, we can't. Sexual predators most often look like you and me. Normal people. And unless you are going to live under a rock with your kids, you can't avoid all danger. But the truth is, you can live in the world AND remain fairly comfortable that you can significantly reduce the risk of danger.
When my kids went to New York City on choir tours, we talked about how to keep your money in your front pocket...never the back. How to keep your purse slung over and across your body and not to keep a large amount of cash inside of it. When we went to some of the more dangerous places in Peru, we knew to keep cameras tucked away and save the nice jewelry for another time. Did this guarantee that we would never be mugged or robbed? No. But it did significantly decrease the chances because we took ourselves off of the radar of these types of criminals as much as was possible. (I couldn't find a way to not have blue eyes or blonde hair....)
It is time we teach our children the same types of tools for staying safe from sexual predators. We must teach them that they cannot tell who is a predator and who is not. ...that the behaviors that will keep them safe must be practiced around all people, regardless of how much we trust them. Precautions such as dressing modestly, being in groups, and keeping professional relationships professional would all serve our children...and ourselves...well.
Assuming they are telling the truth, do you think Cosby's accusers would have been in danger had they stayed with another friend? If they had not left their drink unattended? If they had not been so excited to be with a "star" that they put themselves in positions they would never had put themselves in with any other stranger? This doesn't make what happened to them their fault. But it did put them at higher risk.
Assume that Mr. Cosby is telling the truth. Would it have served him well to not be alone with women that he had no intent on having a sexual relationship with? ...to have boundaries in place that would keep him in the eye of witnesses to his behavior? Of course it would. And how much would he like to be able to point to a person and say, "I'm innocent and ___________ can vouch for me because I never had a woman in my apartment alone without them there."
You may have always loved Bill Cosby, like I have. But that wouldn't make him innocent. Nor do accusations make him guilty. Right now, the only people who know if he is innocent or guilty are Bill Cosby himself and the women who are accusing him. So I will allow the courts to do their job and decide whether to acquit or convict. But I will remind myself, and you, that your safety and that of your children is largely in your own hands.