[Content Note: Sexual abuse; rape culture.]

Another woman has made allegations that she was sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, making her the 20th woman to come forward.

Twenty women.

Many of whom have been telling their stories for years, only to be disbelieved, until a male comedian raised mentioned the allegations in a show.

In the past couple of weeks, I've seen a lot of arguments made by prominent progressive men (and while women may well have made this argument, too, I haven't personally seen it) that the number of Cosby victims has made it "easier" for them to believe the veracity of their allegations.

There are a lot of problems with this position, not least of which is that it invokes every piece of rape apologia centered around these four words: "He said, she said."

Reduced to its essence, saying that the number of victims makes it "easier" to believe them basically says: "Lucky for those women he raped so many of them, so that men like us can't not believe them."

Of course I know that's not the intent of men who offer some version of this "too many victims to disbelieve" trash. But the problem with the argument is that it effectively, even if unintentionally, suggests that more victims is better for any one victim.

I was raped by a man who I know raped at least one other woman besides me. And I find this argument deeply upsetting, because it turns survivors into numbers in a way that suggests my rape might have been somehow "useful" for her, or hers "useful" for me.

I would rather have been the only person he hurt, than had other women be able to say, "He raped me, too," in order to convince men to believe us.

And, by the way, no one believed us, anyway.

I guess there just weren't enough of us to satisfy men so detached from the realities of rape that it takes a numbers game to convince them.

If that sounds grotesque, well, that's because it is. Believing survivors should not be predicated on the number of victims (who come forward) of any individual rapist. Part of the reason 20 women have now told their stories of being abused by Cosby is because people started believing the first women who came forward.

To disbelieve a victim, because she appears to be the only one, is to discourage other victims from coming forward.

When men play this game in which belief is withheld until their arbitrary threshold has been passed, they're actively participating in a cultural silencing mechanism. They're essentially ensuring that there will never be "enough" victims to convince them, because their disbelief is a disincentive to further disclosures.

We know there are vanishingly few false reports of rape, and we know that most rapists have multiple victims. These are the only numbers that matter; the numbers that should underwrite believing victims, whether they speak alone or as part of a cacophony of survivors of the same abuser.

Yes, you're a fool if you don't believe now that there are 20 women who have come forward. But you were a fool if you didn't believe when there was only one.

[See also: "I hope it's not true."]

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