Daughters of the Light
When I first saw the news story I skipped it. I didn’t want to know. The accused vampire was seventy-seven years old. A powerful American icon with a net worth of a third of a billion dollars. Among the honors bestowed on him were over a dozen honorary doctorate degrees and the beloved title of “America’s Dad.”
My husband asked, “Did you hear about Bill Cosby?”
“I’ve seen the article. I don’t want to read it.”
Then my daughter brought it up.
“It’s just one person, right?”
“No, Mom. It’s a lot of women.”
And so I read, and I watched the videos from some of the (at last count, 20) accusers, and I cried. The stories spanned decades. They featured rape, date rape drugs, alcohol, manipulation, fear, threats, burying the truth.
They also included behind-the-scenes Renfields. Renfield as in Dracula’s fly-eating flunky who wants to be like his master. Renfield, who has periods where his conscience bothers him deeply, but finds himself powerless. The unnamed Renfields in these stories were friends, limo drivers, writers, lawyers—those who helped.
I wish I could say I was shocked, but now that I’m at the half-century mark there’s little left to shock me regarding human behavior, especially predatory sexual behavior. Like most women I’ve experienced it personally. With me it came early—at age 11—with a violent, alcoholic Vietnam veteran stepfather. I was not raped, thank God, but I was violated.
There were more incidents when I was fifteen, all with older men: a friend’s dad, a friend of my father’s, a teacher. All had me alone for a few minutes and all gauged my weakness as potential prey. When I was 17 a trusted family member tried to seduce me with dinner and drinks when my family was out of town. Fortunately I was no Mina Harker. I spent most of my young adult life avoiding the gaze of men because I knew that with some, a sickness lurked below the surface. It was impossible to tell who had fangs.
I also knew men’s power. They made the rules, they held the wealth. I grew up with women being referred to as the “weaker sex.” It went without saying weaker implied more than physical strength—it extended to mind, competence, worth, morals. You never heard of a man having “loose morals.” If a woman cried wolf (or vampire) it was guaranteed that their motives would be questioned. Because of this, I was not surprised that Bill Cosby’s accusers had not spoken earlier, or were ignored, or were easily hushed up. As women, we know the score. You will be called a liar; you will be on trial. If you fight to bring a vampire into the sun, it will be the hardest fight of your life.
It took me a while to process this latest exposure, and what I discovered is a shift.
Part of the shift is the supreme bravery and number of women who decided to jump on this particular “bandwagon.” In spite of Cosby’s revered stature, in spite of comments like “they’re all crazy,” “this one had a drinking problem,” “that one had a drug problem,” “this one went to prison.” In spite of “they’re gold-diggers” and “career-destroyers.” In spite of “It’s not like he did it yesterday.” . . . and on and on and on. They still came forward.
Another part of the shift: Over and over I heard they didn’t care anymore about the consequences of speaking out. There was something more important to consider.
That something was “Enough.”
Finally, I realized this was about something deeper. Those of us of a certain age finally realize something. We’ve lived long enough to know that men are never going to be our vampire slayers. Heroes do exist, there are knights in shining armor, but they are rare, and the probability that they’ll be there when we need them is slim to nil.
Vampire slaying is scary business, but we now know only we can save ourselves. We’ve waited and hoped and we’ve been disappointed with our romantic delusions for centuries. And, you know what? Rescuing shouldn’t be put on men. That task resides in all of us, male and female, as we all can be victims.
While I would love to say it’s time to pick up the stakes and hammers, we know there’s only one acceptable way to stop vampires.
We must drag them out into the light.