Nearly 60 people gathered at Bill Cosby's star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood this Saturday to protest laws that have kept the comedian from serving time in jail. While holding signs reading "Justice has no time limit" and "Shame on Bill," the activists tore up California's statute of limitations—laws which dictate how long victims have to report a rape—and threw them in a trash can.
In California, victims of rape and sexual assault have ten years to press charges against their assailant or the case dies. Many wait longer out of shame or fear of retribution. The rape victims advocacy group EndRapeSOL organized the protest to raise awareness of their goal of extending the statute of limitations to 30 years or abolishing the limits altogether.
Lili Bernard said she was raped by Bill Cosby while preparing to guest star on the eighth and final season of The Cosby Show. At the Walk of Fame, she poured a bottle of water on Cosby's star to symbolize the water the comedian used to wash the sperm off her body.
"This water is a trigger for me because whenever I take a shower, I feel Bill Cosby grabbing my ankle and dragging me to the end of the bed because I could not move," she said to the crowd. "These are the traumas we deal with, in addition to the re-victimization."
Victoria Valentino, whom Bill Cosby allegedly raped in 1970, explained to those assembled why she felt too humiliated to report her rape when the assault allegedly took place.
"It takes years even to talk about it, just to say the word," she said. "You feel like it's your fault somehow, that you weren't strong enough. Even at seventy-three years old, I'm still blaming my 26-year-old self for not having the wisdom that I have now, for not having the power and the strength to push him off and say, 'No.'" She alleged that Cosby took advantage of her when she was grieving the loss of her child: "Forty-six years ago, he took advantage of the fact that my six-year-old son had just drowned in a swimming pool, and pretended to have compassion for me in order to get to my girlfriend, who he had the hots for," she said. "I ended up pulling him off of her and then he raped me."
As they marched in a tight circle, some of the protestors wiped their shoes on Cosby's name while others shuffled around his star, unsure how to register their disgust. A tour bus stopped briefly outside the rally. Tourists looked out, surveying the protest as if it was just another spectacle on Hollywood Boulevard.
Ninety-year-old activist Ivy Bottini handed out flyers to passersby, asking strangers if they cared about justice for rape victims. Even when pedestrians—including grown men wearing Marvel costumes—ignored her, she was persistent.
"This is just the beginning," she told me. "Nothing changes without a push."
Even at seventy-three years old, I'm still blaming my 26-year-old self for not having the power and the strength to push him off and say, 'No.'
As the media arrived, Caroline Heldman, a law professor at Occidental College, pointed out how California's morally dubious laws have protected citizens from unscrupulous lawmakers, but not serial rapists.
"There is no statute of limitations for embezzlement of public funds," she said. "This shows that the state takes embezzlement more seriously than rape and sexual assault. We need to send a very serious message to survivors everywhere that this is a serious crime."
Valentino noted that other countries, like the UK and Canada, have no statute of limitations for rape at all.
"We need to join them," Valentino said. "Absolutely we need to go for it and we cannot be talked down. We cannot be diminished; we cannot be patronized. We need to stand strong, stand in our truth, and not be silent any damn more."
The protesters may get their wish: California State Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) recently announced plans to introduce a bill in Sacramento in January that would eliminate the statute of limitations for rape in the state.