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Dateline's Cosby Accusers Special Was Both Harrowing and Hopeful

They won't stay silent any longer

Jessica Roy

They've been called liars, gold diggers, and attention-seekers.

But on Dateline NBC Friday night, 27 of the more than 50 women who have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault came together to share their stories with each other and the public. The special coincided with the day Cosby was supposed to testify in a sexual abuse lawsuit. Throughout the hour, each woman told one heartbreaking tale after another, often evoking strong reactions ranging from tears to anger over their disturbingly similar experiences. A chilling pattern emerged from these stories.

An up-and-coming actress or model excited to meet a superstar. Barbara Bowman's agent set up her meeting with Cosby. Lily Bernard had a guest spot on The Cosby Show. Most of the women said they thought Cosby was interested in mentoring them and helping them in their nascent careers.

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A drink that resulted in a blackout. Marcella Tate was invited to the Playboy Mansion by Cosby and accepted a drink he handed to her. After taking two or three sips, she passed out, and woke up naked next to Cosby in an unfamiliar bed. Charlotte Fox came back from the bathroom during a jazz show she was seeing with Cosby, had a few sips of her drink, and woke up in an unfamiliar bed. To this day, she doesn't remember how she got home.

Hazy memories that indicated sexual assault. Bernard recalled coming out of her blackout and realizing she was on the floor, the carpet feeling like Velcro digging into her back. Bowman said her underwear was "destroyed." Sunny Wells accepted a soda from Cosby, blacked out, and woke up naked. She called her mother and said, "I think Bill Cosby raped me, mom."

Although many of these details are not new to those who have been following the rape allegations, to have so many accusers in the same room, telling the same story was a powerful statement against Cosby, especially since the statute of limitations to charge him with rape or sexual assault has run out for most of the women. It also created a sisterhood of support for women who believed they were alone in their secret shame.

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After comedian Hannibal Buress brought up Cosby's multiple rape allegations in his comedy tour in 2014, Bowman wrote an article for the Washington Post about her experience. She said women -- including several who were there for the Dateline interview -- contacted her and said they couldn't believe how similar their stories were. They had all been too afraid and ashamed to talk about it and risk disbelief when they thought it was just them.

"Ladies don't discuss these things," one of the women said. "Maybe that's why these things keep happening."

For these 27 women, that forum for discussion was Dateline NBC.

What did you think of the Cosby accusers special?

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