I have to admit that I’m still trying to move beyond the hell that my now ex-husband had put me through ever since he ran away from home just three days after we celebrated a lovely Christmas together in 2011. But there are times when news stories just triggers those bad memories. That’s because my husband never indicated that he was unhappy until the night he came home from work, announced that he was moving out, then ran out the door before I had the chance to say anything. I later found out that he left me for a friend of ours who had just gotten on Social Security disability for mental health issues and he married her just two months after our divorce was final.
Earlier this year I was triggered by the renewed controversy over Woody Allen. I think it’s because of the nature of his personal life (he left his longtime girlfriend for her adopted daughter whom he later married) was just as bizarre as the sudden collapse of my own marriage.
More recently I’ve been getting more reminders of how unpredictable people can be from the numerous rape accusations against Bill Cosby. I really didn’t feel like bloviating my own opinions about this case like so many others have on blogs and social media. When I found out about the Smithsonian exhibiting items from the personal art collection of Bill and Camille Cosby in its National Museum of African Art, I found a different perspective to weigh in on this controversy so I went to the museum to check out the exhibit then wrote a post about it (which also turns out to be one of my more popular posts that I have written in the past few weeks).
I thought I could leave the Bill Cosby controversy alone after that post. But then Bill’s wife, Camille, began to publicly speak out and I really feel the need to comment on this based on my own recent experience.
In her statement she says that “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…None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim. But the question should be asked—who is the victim?”
I have been in the same position as Camille. When my friends first broke the news to me a month after my husband ran away from home that he had been seeing that mentally ill friend, I didn’t want to believe it. It was only after I started seeing the two of them in public coupled together with his frequent e-mails and texts demanding that I adhere to a separation schedule that existed only in his head or else he would sue me that I began to encounter a very ugly side of him that he had never displayed to me before. Like Camille I still had earlier memories of the positive aspects of my husband as a very active volunteer at our church (including such responsible positions as Youth Group Advisor, Board of Trustees Member, and Treasurer) who had a respectable career (he has programmed several satellites for NASA) and he seemed to have ethics and integrity. If someone had told me prior to 2011 that he seems to have a taste for mentally ill women, I would’ve gone totally ballistic on that person because I originally thought that my husband would never do such a sleazy thing in a million years. I thought he had too much integrity to ever do something like that.
Unlike Camille I had to start seeing my husband for the person he really is and it’s not very pretty. Just the idea of him hooking up with a woman with serious mental health issues was enough for me to let him have the divorce that he really wanted. As this Wikipedia page on sexual ethics states:
In western countries, the legal concept of “informed consent” often sets the public standards on this issue. Children, the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill, animals, and people under the influence of drugs like alcohol might be considered in certain situations as lacking an ability to give an informed consent.
Unfortunately there aren’t too many laws regarding sex with mentally ill people and the few that does exist varies from state to state. I’ve been frustrated by the fact that had my husband hooked up with a 13-year-old girl I could’ve reported him to the authorities but I could do nothing about a grown woman with serious mental health issues. I was heartened to learn that last month, the mother of a seriously mentally ill woman who had entered into a sadomasochistic relationship with a married man but later died of undisclosed causes, had won a civil suit against the man by saying that he manipulated her daughter when she couldn’t consent. Sadly he couldn’t be criminally charged because of the laws but at least the mother got some form of justice. It would be nice if there were some kind of a national dialogue over mental illness and sexual consent along with legal reforms but I don’t see anything like that happening anytime soon.
Getting back to Camille Cosby, I really don’t know why she had to make any public statements about what he’s going through. (Of course I’m assuming that she’s doing it of her own volition with no coercion from Bill whatsoever.) I really don’t know why she had to drag the unrelated Rolling Stone magazine controversy over its recent article about rape on the University of Virginia campus into this other than to promote the idea to never believe anyone claiming to be a rape victim. This is a throwback to the days when rape victims literally had a hard time getting any kind of conviction against their rapists because of the popular assumption that she probably “asked for it” in some way.
What’s more, at least one incident involving Carla Ferrigno happened in the Cosby home after Camille decided to retire to the bedroom for the evening. I don’t know how large the home in question was but if my husband had tried something like that with another woman in the downstairs living room while I had retired for the evening upstairs, I probably would’ve woken up from the noise downstairs (regardless of whether the sex had been consensual or not) and gone down the steps to investigate.
I know that for a long time women married to rich and powerful men tended to look the other way whenever their husbands had affairs because they had grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle and they didn’t want to lose it by leaving the man. The fact that Camille didn’t leave Bill after the whole Autumn Jackson paternity scandal came to light years earlier pretty much confirmed that she was one of those wives who just didn’t want to face the fact that her husband was a womanizer.
But there’s a huge difference between having an affair between two consenting adults and what numerous women have accused Bill Cosby of doing to them: either spiking their drinks with drugs or taking him up on his offer of taking a pill that he said was a simple over-the-counter medicine only to find out that it was something way stronger than ibuprofen.
I began to lose my desire for a reconciliation with my husband the more I heard about his relationship with a seriously mentally ill woman because I felt that what he was doing was unethical at best and it forever tainted my previous love and fondness for him. I can’t imagine still wanting to be with a man who have been accused of so many rapes. If I were in Camille’s shoes, I’d be paranoid that my husband would try something like that with me.
Even if he is innocent of all the charges, the fact remains that he’s a womanizer who may have been the father of Autumn Jackson as a result of an affair with another woman. Worse, there is the allegation that he leaked the story about his daughter Erinn’s problems with drugs and alcohol to The National Enquirer in exchange for that tabloid killing the story of his swinging with Sammy Davis, Jr. and a bunch of Las Vegas showgirls. Why on earth would Camille continue to stand by the husband who threw their own daughter under the bus by exposing her publicly as an addict for his own selfish reasons is beyond me. If my husband had done something sleazy like that with my own relatives, I would’ve given him total hell before kicking his ass to the curb.
I know that having a less-than-rosy picture of your own spouse is hard and it can be traumatizing. I was forced to face the reality of my situation directly and I’ve had to learn to live with the fact that the man I married wasn’t really what he seemed to be on the surface. Instead of making public statements denouncing the rape accusers while implying that her husband is a victim, Camille needs to take a hard look at her husband and start facing the reality of who her husband really is. For inspiration on what to do about a husband locked in a public scandal, she should take a look at Jenny Sanford and see how she decided against publicly supporting her husband, then-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, when he was caught seeing a mistress in Argentina and basically decided that her husband was on his own for facing the scandal in public. (Jenny Sanford would later divorce her husband.)
In other words, stop trying to defend the indefensible on behalf of a less-than-trustworthy person.