PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The head of a local victim’s advocacy group says she’s not surprised it took more than 30 years for a local woman who claims Bill Cosby abused her to come forward.
Alison Hall, the executive director of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, says the number one reason that victims don’t report their abuse is because they fear they won’t be believed, especially when their abuser is a powerful or trusted person.
“You can see that where people are saying these women (in the Cosby case) are making this up. ‘That didn’t really happen.’ This was, this is a beloved figure in our society, someone who was respected and looked up to,” Hall told KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti.
Iannotti broke the story of Renita Chaney Hill, who says she was just 15 and an aspiring actress when she met Bill Cosby after her modeling agency sent her on an audition for “Picture Pages,” a series of educational videos Cosby was producing in Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s.
Hill’s story is similar to those of other women who have recently accused Cosby of abuse.
She claims Cosby would fly her to cities where he was appearing and when they were together would always insist that she drink even though she was underage. She believes the drinks contained drugs.
“I always thought it was odd that after I had this drink I would end up in my bed the next morning and I wouldn’t remember anything,” Hill told Iannotti.
She’s not sure she was ever raped, but does recall one incident where she says Cosby kissed and groped her before she passed out.
Hall calls that process “grooming.”
“Sexual offenders are charming and disarming and they gain your trust and gain the trust of your friends and family members,” said Hall.
She says it’s not surprising that, if Hill and the other women were indeed victimized, they might have been confused enough not to report what they suspected at the time.
“The age of these victims, they were in their teens. I’m sure they found it hard to believe themselves. And back then it wasn’t readily understood that there are date rape drugs,” Hall said.
Hill’s family has known about her experience for some time, and she says her daughters encouraged her to go public after she became upset about some of the things Cosby’s attorneys were saying about the other women accusers.
“Watching these brave women come out and tell their stories and then to have someone come out and say they’re not going to dignify them and what they had to say. They’re not lying and I can attest to that,” she told Iannotti.
PAAR’s Hall says she hopes that the publicity surrounding this case will prompt more abuse victims to ask for help.
Keeping the secret of abuse is “a lonely place for victims,” said Hall. “You may think you don’t know someone else who’s a victim and chances are you probably do given the rate of sexual assault.”
PAAR operates a 24/7 hotline and offers counseling services. Visit their website here.
“I hope they when they come to PAAR they know that we believe you and we’ll help you heal,” said Hall.
For Hill, simply telling her story after all these years has taken a weight off her shoulders.
“If I can help legitimize that and be a part of that I knew I needed to do that for my own healing,” she said.
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