It may be worth looking at Operation Yewtree
and the surrounding cases in the UK to look at similar examples.
In short, in the wake of much loved British TV personality Jimmy Savile's
death a number of accusations that had been covered up during his lifetime that he was a serial child abuser came to light... and once they started to be investigated even more appeared. While Operation Yewtree was focused almost entirely on Savile and child abuse the fact that it became public and alleged historical offenses were being investigated meant that more people came forward to accuse celebrities (mainly associated with the BBC) of historical abuse, generally in the 1970's and 80's. There have been some high profile convictions (notably Rolf Harris
, Max Clifford
and Stuart Hall
), some high profile "not guilty" verdicts (William Roache
and Michael Le Vell
), some high profile arrests followed by a lack of prosecutions (Freddie Starr
and Jim Davidson
and at least one case where questions as yo "was it worth it?" were raised: Dave Lee Travis
was accused of about 14 different offences, found not guilty at his first trial of 12 of them and at the retrial convicted of one count of touching a researcher's breast for 15 seconds. There are still some cases pending, the biggest of which relates to Cliff Richard
So we've got to see the good and the bad of such cases coming to light; some serial abusers are having to pay for their crimes while some (seemingly) innocent men had their names dragged through the muck (Freddie Starr for example was arrested four times and bailed nine, each with a lot of publicity, before being told he was not going to be prosecuted). We've also seen what could well be regarded as a misuse of resources in the wake of the Savile revelations; while it may well be right that Travis eventually had to account for his actions if you compare the zeal, effort and money that went into prosecuting him for what in the end amounted to one (in the great scheme of things) minor sexual assault compared to the complete inaction by the authorities in places like Rotherham
it does leave a rather bad taste in the mouth.
We've also had to face a rather awkward discussion about historical culture. The simple truth is that things which were seen as acceptable in the 1970's and 80's over here no longer are. "Casual" groping was once considered largely fine... these days it's not just unacceptable it's also seen as sexual assault. But is it right to attach our cultural norms (even though clearly superior) to acts that occurred in the 70's and 80's? Is that getting a bit too close to "dog law" (punishing someone for something that wasn't a crime when they did it, much as like one would punish a dog for something that it hadn't been told was "bad")? Is it only celebrities who should be held accountable for acts like that in the 70's, 80's and 90's... and if not then why the emphasis on celebrities?
Prosecuting historical cases will always have more difficulty than more recent ones. In cases like sexual assault which already have a large "he said, she said" element it becomes even more difficult. These will almost always be troublesome, hard cases to get anything like accepted facts out of.
With regards to the discussion above I don't think we should be too hasty to completely dismiss the racial aspects of this however. As far as I'm aware all of the allegations against Cosby relate to white women. If he specifically targeted white women then there's of course a racial element to the crime. If he didn't just target white women then why have white women been the only ones to come forward (or at least get publicity; there may be accusers from other ethnic backgrounds I'm unaware of)? Isn't that dog whistling (and so blatantly it can hardly be called a dog whistle) that only sexual assaults against white people matter? And is Bill Cosby... a highly prominent black celebrity... the only celebrity with sexual offences skeletons hanging in his closet? If not then why only him? After all a law can be racist not only in its creation but also in its application.