Cosby 'victims' unite on cover

NEW YORK • Thirty-five women - dressed in black, in chronological order by their alleged year of assault - appeared together on a striking cover of New York magazine on Monday, giving faces to their accounts of being sexually assaulted by comedian Bill Cosby.

They include models, waitresses, Playboy bunnies and women who used to work in showbusiness. One woman, former Playboy bunny Victoria Valentino, said Cosby raped her while she was grief-stricken by the death of her six-year-old son.

The cover, and the individual portraits that accompanied the women's stories in this week's issue, drew widespread attention on the Internet and lit up social media as soon as it was posted on Sunday night.

The magazine's website went offline on Monday morning and stayed dark until about noon, thwarting what had been extraordinary traffic. On Twitter, a user who goes by Vikingdom2016 claimed responsibility for the disruption.

In an interview with the website The Daily Dot, the hacker also known as ThreatKing said the attack was based on a hatred for New York City and not related to the cover that features Cosby's accusers.

The New York magazine cover shows the 35 women in chronological order by their alleged year of assault by comedian Bill Cosby. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The photographs by Amanda Demme were accompanied by an article by Noreen Malone that examined the women's accusations in the context of the evolving attitude in the country towards the reporting of rape accusations. Although there were no revelations in the article - all of the women had come forward previously - the magazine said its intention was to show the sheer number of women who have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault.

"Each story is awful in its own right. But the horror is multiplied by the sheer volume of seeing them together," the magazine wrote.

The project began about six months ago, around the time when more than a dozen women publicly accused him of sexually harassing, assaulting or raping them, sometimes after he had drugged them.

In all, 46 women have publicly accused the 78-year-old of rape or sexual assault.

The women who agreed to talk to the magazine and have their photographs taken were asked to bring one black and one white outfit to one of several photo shoots that occurred mostly in Los Angeles and New York.

Some have questioned the decision to take individual portraits of the women in white, arguing that the colour connotes innocence and could be portrayed as one-sided. But Ms Jody Quon, the magazine's photography director, said the goal was to make the portraits about the women's faces and not their clothing.

On Monday, a spokesman for Cosby declined to comment on the magazine's cover story.

The women told startlingly similar stories, with many asserting that the comedian drugged them or plied them with wine before having sex with them.

Ms Valentino, 72, was allegedly assaulted in 1969 when Cosby took her and a friend to a steak restaurant not long after her young son had died.

She told the magazine that Cosby gave her and her friend pills that would make her "feel better", but instead left her fighting nausea and her friend "completely unconscious".

She remembered Cosby going up in a lift with her and her friend, then raping her.

Former comedy club manager Joyce Emmons, 70, said she was assaulted around 1979 after a night out with the star and friends. She had asked Cosby for a headache pill. He said he had something stronger, instead of Tylenol.

"All I remember is taking the pill," she told the magazine. When she woke up, she "had no clothes on, and there was Bill's friend, totally naked in bed with me".

She said Cosby told her he had given her a Quaalude. She said she had been devastated by the behaviour of someone she had considered a close friend. "I was hurt by Bill more than angry at his friend. Bill let him take advantage of me. That kills me. That's why I know the stories of what he did to the other women are true."

Former training specialist Patricia Leary Steuer, who until the magazine piece had come forward only as "Patricia", said in an interview that she had been text-messaging and talking on Facebook with some of the other women on Monday.

She said some of the women said they had cried when they saw a group portrait online that had been assembled from several portraits shot at different times. She could "feel a sadness in the background", Ms Steuer said. "Nobody wants to be a member of this club," she said. "But we are." NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Cosby 'victims' unite on cover'. Print Edition | Subscribe