I received an email from a rape survivor named Sunny Slaughter. Her email was much different from the other random emails I receive since publishing my exclusive Bill Cosby interview. I am sharing her story and open letter with my readers — as I hope other major media outlets that received this same email will do the same.
Sunny Slaughter, a rape survivor and human trafficking activist states she “I’m not saying that Cosby is innocent, but I’m also not saying that he’s guilty.” The email begins with a brief introduction and she also states she has no association with the accusers nor Cosby — “I’m not professionally or personally associated with the Cosby’s, I don’t have a relationship with anyone associated with them; nor am I associated with any of his accusers. I don’t know whether he’s innocent or guilty, and I’m not speaking out for or against him, but I am speaking out against the manner in which his “alleged guilt” is being played out and spun (at the detriment of actual victims of sexual violence) in major media outlets across the world.
“And the TRUTH shall set You Free: The Collateral Damage of Sexual Violence Allegations”
By: Sunnetta “Sunny” Slaughter, Criminal Consultant
Imagine you went to visit a friend and her handsome older brother was the only one at home and he said, have a seat, you can stay and watch television with me until they get back. You’re only a few houses from your own home, you’ve been there before, you know him, and he’s in the military, so why wouldn’t you feel safe? You don’t remember exactly how long it took, but eventually you were pinned down on the sofa, one of his hands were holding both of yours together, and his other hand was unbuttoning your pants, pulling them down and he began penetrating you. You couldn’t scream, you couldn’t move, except for the thrust of his body against yours. When he finished, he calmly got up, offered you a towel, smiled and he said, thank you, you’re so cute and it’s our secret. You went home, walked right past your mother without saying a word, went upstairs cleaned yourself up, and only ever told your best friend the details. It was over 30 years ago, but you remember just like it was yesterday. You know exactly who your rapist was, you were 13 years old, and you know you didn’t ask for him to penetrate you, but because you didn’t scream, you didn’t run, and you didn’t tell anyone, does that somehow make it alright? Now, imagine how you would feel if you heard the words, raped, molested, violated and the victim that these words referred to was your 7-year-old daughter, and it happened only 12 years ago but your response was completely different. That’s my story and I recently told part of it for a Tedx Talk in Birmingham entitled “What are you really willing to do for others”. I not only wanted, but needed to talk about it because although what happened to me was over 30 years ago, and I had gotten past it, the collateral damage of what happened 12 years ago, still has my children and I in its grasp.
Recently, as I have been watching the unfolding of allegations against Bill Cosby and UVA, as an advocate, criminal consultant, mother of a victim and survivor, I have become disheartened by what should be teachable moments of education, awareness and empowerment by the leadership and advocates working daily in the movement of Sexual Assault. However, under the guise of what appears to be the support of victims of sexual violence, far too many individuals, organizations and agencies have taken what I believe, to be an irresponsible stance in the pursuit of gaining national attention to the issue and cause. First, let’s take the most recent high-profile cases involving celebrity and entertainer Bill Cosby and the push to ostracize, alienate and boycott venues, businesses and supporters of Cosby by rape crisis centers and advocates based on allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. Albeit the allegations are numerous, they have yet to be confirmed and supported by facts, and thus would amount to hearsay in a court of law and would be inadmissible. These actions while seemingly in support of victims rights, is absolutely irresponsible on the part of these organizations and agencies, who partner each and every day with law enforcement officers, advocates, prosecutors and other members of the judiciary in the pursuit of due process and “JUSTICE”.
Rape crisis centers and more specifically SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners), are highly trained professionals and work with “alleged victims” in obtaining sexual assault evidence and information which speaks solely to the facts of the case and incident without encouraging victims to include information and details which may not be true, but later can be used in cases of prosecution or civil liability. As organizations who actively participate in the coordinated response of victim services, it is imperative that victims seeking guidance and support, and who are often already on the edge of reliving experiences of physical and emotional trauma, are not further victimized by overzealous advocates and agencies looking to bring attention to the cause at the expense of an “alleged victim” or “alleged perpetrator”.
Although more than three dozen women have made allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Bill Cosby, none of these allegations have resulted in past or present criminal charges or have been substantiated in any criminal court at any time. In addition, to date, only one civil case has been settled and the terms of that agreement have not been made public, therefore one can only speculate as to what occurred. Being fully aware of victims being afraid to talk about rape to anyone, and most often at any time, I am however perplexed at the number of Caucasian women who would have found it difficult to tell law enforcement officers 30 years ago and even 10 years ago about being sexually assaulted by a black man, even one of such notoriety as Bill. No matter how much spin we want to put on how far we as a people and society have come, the truth is, we haven’t come that far! There are a number of black and Latino men who have been falsely accused of sexual assault and other crimes and who were sent to prison over the past 30 years and their lives are forever changed: the Central Park 5, Charles Chapman, Kash Delano Register, Anthony Graves and Robert Clark just to name a few, but I could go on and on.
I’m not saying that Cosby is innocent, but I’m also not saying that he’s guilty; however, what I am saying, is that everyone who is accused of a crime is entitled to due process in a court of law, regardless of whether or not they are a celebrity.
They are entitled for the “evidence” against them to be presented and to be heard, because that’s what advocates who have worked on legislative policy regarding sexual violence have fought for and won. I’m saying, that no matter how many women have come forward and accused him, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone has been accused by a large number of “alleged victims” only for us to find out later, that it was all a lie, fabricated, and unsubstantiated. We have enough history that tells us to wait and not respond in haste, to be an advocate of the cause, and not just the case, remember Tawana Brawley, the Central Park Jogger, the Duke Lacrosse team and even more recently UVA.
The recent retraction by the notable Rolling Stones Magazine for the article titled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” by Sabrina Rubin Erdley, is exactly why a rush to judgment on the basis of an “alleged crime” by an “alleged victim” whose information was not vetted, far too vague, not corroborated by evidence and even investigated by law enforcement, makes it harder for a real victim to sometimes obtain the justice they want, need and deserve. While I can’t speak to the intent of the author or even the intent of the “alleged victim”, what I can speak to, is the unnecessary brutal assault which was unjustly wielded upon the young men at Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, their families, the UVA administration, the school community and every victim of sexual violence, who will now struggle even more for a measure of justice in the courtroom and in their daily lives. The young men, fraternity and school will be tainted for many years to come.
As I turn my thoughts back to Cosby and how vehemently and deliberately this campaign of destruction has been conducted against him without proof, I can’t help but wonder what each of you will do now, when an “alleged victim” of sexual assault expects the same response on their behalf against their “alleged perpetrator”. When victims from across the country push the envelope for boycotts, media campaigns, ads and the like, what will you do and what will you say? They might not be a celebrity, there might not even be any proof, just too many allegations, and then how many is too many? The leaders of the sexual assault movement represent the voices, stories and lives of a multitude, not just a select few. We are responsible for doing what is right for the collective good of humanity, not the personal satisfaction of just those we choose to assist. There is cause for alarm when irreparable harm is done to make a point, and not in the pursuit of justice for all. When state and federal dollars are misused to push an agenda, and miss the opportunity for educational awareness, cultural and social competency, empowerment for victims, judicial penalties which can be strengthened for perpetrators, and an overall understanding of the impact of sexual violence on all communities.
You don’t have to believe Bill Cosby is innocent, just like so many believed the young men of UVA were guilty. But, if you or someone you know or love has ever been falsely accused, then you will understand, that even when you have been exonerated, it doesn’t matter what the truth is, because the truth doesn’t always set you free, but a lie can hold you hostage forever.
I hope you will read and publish my letter with an open mind and for the intent for which it was written. This IS A teachable moment for us all. You have an opportunity to do what far too many have not done, and that’s take a hard and objective look at the “real issue” SEXUAL VIOLENCE which is bigger than any one man, Bill Cosby, let alone one that we don’t know for sure is guilty of anything! I wasn’t afraid to speak out and this is what I do…I hope you won’t be afraid to stand up and do what you can to get the TRUTH out and not continue to let the perpetuation of unsubstantiated facts ruin lives. Albert Einstein once said: “Private capitalist inevitably control the main source of information (press, radio, education). It is thus….quite impossible for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions.” Now here’s a quote from my letter: “the truth doesn’t always set you free, but a lie can hold you hostage forever.” Now I’m not Einstein, but I agree with him, and I believe he just might agree with me!