Cosby Allegations Lead to Spike in Hotline Use

Bill Cosby portrait

At least 17 women have publicly accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them, with 12 of those also alleging that he used drugs to incapacitate them. The national publicity about the allegations has led to a 50% increase in usage of the National Sexual Assault Hotline, according to Katherine Hull Fliflet, RAINN’s vice president for communications.

The women’s accusations range from the 1960s to 2004, and from Los Angeles to Denver to New York City, but they follow a similar pattern: Young women who were trying to make it in Hollywood were wooed by Cosby’s fame and power, and then allegedly manipulated, often drugged and then assaulted.

“[He] won my trust as a 17-year-old aspiring actress in 1985, brainwashed me into viewing him as a father figure, and then assaulted me multiple times,” Barbara Bowman wrote in the Washington Post.

After the attention that Bowman’s story received, former comedian and actress Joan Tarshis wrote about how Cosby had similarly befriended her, introduced her to celebrities with the promise of helping her make it big, and then gave her alcohol and pills before assaulting her at his home. The Washington Post interviewed five of the women, and reported on “court records that shed light on the accusations of a former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University who assembled 13 ‘Jane Doe’ accusers in 2005 to testify on her behalf about their allegations against Cosby.” Cosby denies the allegations.

Many sexual assault survivors found the women’s stories familiar. “Hearing from someone who has survived a similar experience can be incredibly encouraging to those who have yet to come forward,” said Fliflet.

Last week, after learning that NBC and Netflix had canceled upcoming Cosby projects, RAINN released a statement from Fliflet:

“We appreciate that NBC and Netflix have taken these allegations seriously and think that they've made the responsible choice by canceling these shows. The coverage of the Bill Cosby story has already led to a significant increase in the number of survivors reaching out for help through the National Sexual Assault Hotline.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and

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