The headlines have been so frequent that it can be easy to forget a whopping 46 women have come forward publicly to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault. New York magazine was able to interview and photograph 35 of the alleged victims to create a powerful magazine cover shot that may end up doing more to destroy the once-beloved comic’s reputation than anything that has been released so far. Beyond the shocking front-page, the magazine publishes interviews, as well as photos and videos, of each of the women, who detail the abuse and how they were treated with suspicion when they came forward.
The women have formed “a sorrowful sisterhood,” as one of the alleged victims describes it. New York’s Noreen Malone explains:
Each story is awful in its own right. But the horror is multiplied by the sheer volume of seeing them together, reading them together, considering their shared experience. The women have found solace in their number — discovering that they hadn’t been alone, that there were others out there who believed them implicitly, with whom they didn’t need to be afraid of sharing the darkest details of their lives.
While it is now clear just how widespread the alleged abuse really was, several of the women describe how difficult it was to come forward. “I felt like a prisoner,” said Barbara Bowman, who wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about how hard it was to get anyone to believe her story. “I felt I was kidnapped and hiding in plain sight. I could have walked down any street of Manhattan at any time and said, ‘I’m being raped and drugged by Bill Cosby,’ but who the hell would have believed me? Nobody, nobody.”
The magazine cover includes a photograph of an empty chair to symbolize those who have not come forward and are afraid to speak up. Social media users quickly began using #TheEmptyChair hashtag to discuss the issue, tell personal stories, and express support to victims.
The issue comes on the heels of publication of previously sealed court documents that showed how Cosby admitted using drugs to aid his pursuit of young women.