35 Bill Cosby accusers unite on New York magazine cover

Bill Cosby

Bill CosbyThirty-five of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape or sexual assault have been photographed and interviewed by New York Magazine.

The striking cover story features women aged from their 20s to 80, and include supermodels Beverley Johnson and Janice Dickinson, Playboy bunnies, waitresses and journalists.

New York’s Noreen Malone explains: “Each story is awful in its own right. But the horror is multiplied by the sheer volume of seeing them together, reading them together, considering their shared experience. The women have found solace in their number — discovering that they hadn’t been alone, that there were others out there who believed them implicitly, with whom they didn’t need to be afraid of sharing the darkest details of their lives.”

Cosby denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime.

Barbara Bowman told the magazine: “I felt like a prisoner; I felt like I was kidnapped and hiding in plain sight.”

She continued: “I could have walked down any street in Manhattan at any time and said: ‘I’m being raped and drugged by Bill Cosby,’ but who the hell would have believed me? Nobody, nobody.”

The online New York Magazine article – which appeared to have crashed the website on Monday morning – features many similar stories, accompanied by six video interviews and portraits and group photographs by Amanda Demme.

“The group of women Cosby allegedly assaulted functions almost as a longitudinal study,” said the Magazine, “both for how an individual woman, on her own, deals with such trauma over the decades and for how the culture at large has grappled with rape over the same time period.”

It continued: “In the 60s, when the first alleged assault by Cosby occurred, rape was considered to be something violent committed by a stranger… But among younger women, and particularly online, there is a strong sense now that speaking up is the only thing to do, that a woman claiming her own victimhood is more powerful than any other weapon in the fight against rape.”

Lili Bernard, an actress who appeared in The Cosby Show, told the magazine: “In the early 1990s, in my mid-20s, Bill Cosby mentored me. He gained my total trust and then he drugged me without my knowledge.

“He raped me. I wouldn’t call him crazy… I felt that he was very much in control of his behaviour.”

Cosby has denied any wrongdoing through his representatives

The magazine said more than 40 women had so far come forward and many they spoke to said they know of others who have chosen to remain silent. The empty chair in the cover image has already sparked its own debate and a Twitter hashtag #TheEmptyChair.

Cosby has made the headlines several times this month, with the prestigious African-American institution, Spelman College, discontinuing his professorship at the weekend in light of the allegations.

Recently released court documents from a 2005 civil case with Andrea Constand – who does not appear in New York magazine – show he had admitted obtaining sedatives to give to women before sex.

According to Cosby, the sexual contact they had was consensual.

“I walk her out. She does not look angry. She does not say to me, don’t ever do that again,” he said. “She doesn’t walk out with an attitude of a huff, because I think I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them.”

He likened giving a woman a Quaalude to saying, “Have a drink.”

His lawyers said he was only one of many people who introduced the sedatives – Quaaludes – into their “consensual sex life in the 1970s”.

They said that at no point had Mr Cosby admitted to having any non-consensual sex or giving any women drugs without their knowledge.