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What do we want from Bill Cosby?

By Dean Obeidallah
updated 8:56 PM EST, Sun November 30, 2014
For more than 50 years, Bill Cosby has been one of America's leading entertainers: a noted comedian, an Emmy-winning actor and an innovative producer. However, his reputation has been tarnished by allegations of rape. Here's a look at how Cosby, shown here in 2013, has changed through the years: For more than 50 years, Bill Cosby has been one of America's leading entertainers: a noted comedian, an Emmy-winning actor and an innovative producer. However, his reputation has been tarnished by allegations of rape. Here's a look at how Cosby, shown here in 2013, has changed through the years:
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Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
Bill Cosby: Evolution of an icon
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Bill Cosby likely won't face charges in sex assault allegations
  • He asked on social media: What do we want from Cosby?
  • Some said give money to rape prevention programs, apologize, compensate alleged victims
  • Obeidallah: Unlikely Cosby will address the issue, but one good thing: Our awareness is raised

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report." He's also the co-director of the documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- By now, we have all heard the allegations made by numerous women that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them. At least 15 have accused him of abuse, with the first incident in the late 1960s and the last in 2004.

While his attorneys have denied most of these assertions, Cosby has publicly refused to comment. In fact just a few weeks ago, Cosby not only declined to answer an Associated Press reporter's question about the claims, he told the reporter that he would appreciate it if any reference to the allegations not appear in the story.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

So now what? Well, it's not likely Cosby will be criminally prosecuted. The only alleged incident that clearly falls within the criminal statute of limitations is the one involving Andrea Constand. That event purportedly took place in 2004 in Pennsylvania, a state that provides victims with 12 years to file a criminal complaint in sexual assault cases.

But don't count on seeing a criminal action. In part, because the prosecutor didn't find sufficient evidence to prosecute back in 2005. In addition, Cosby paid an undisclosed sum to Constand in 2006 to settle the civil lawsuit arising from the alleged sexual assault. I can tell you as a former trial lawyer that that civil settlement would have, without a doubt, included a release by Constand of all claims against Cosby, including criminal.

Cosby's career has been deeply damaged by the ongoing scandal and he has been denounced pretty much everywhere.

Is there something that he could do now that could persuade the millions of people who were once his fans to potentially see him again as a comedian, not as a serial rapist -- which is how I now see him?

I posed this question on social media: What do we want from Bill Cosby now?

The responses revealed an interesting cross section of opinion from men and women on all sides of the issue. And while they varied greatly, a common theme emerged. But before I mention that one, here are some of the often thought-provoking comments I received in response to the question.

Nothing I suppose... nothing he could say justifies anything he has done @germanphile

... He should 100% retire so his victims never have to be reminded of his presence again @sidra_zaidi

Alma mater cuts ties with Bill Cosby
Timeline of Bill Cosby's rise
Do Cosby allegations amount to slander?

Want to hear how could criticize blacks for years knowing he had these demons in his closet! @ChrisAlanComedy:

Leave him alone. @MLCzone

"Make a massive donation to a rape prevention program." Comment on Facebook from Lynn Harris

If he's guilty, which it seems that he is, then he deserves to go to prison for his crimes regardless of his age. @wmzraz

"He should apologize to his victims. Maybe pay compensation as well." Comment on Facebook from Basel Ammane.

... WE must turn tragedy into teachable moment. @kthalps

Car battery, jumper cables and a narcoleptic switchwoman @maverick_kris

These comments truly reflect the range of responses I received, with many advocating Cosby be imprisoned and a few defending him. But the most common reaction was this:

"Tell the truth!" Comment on Facebook from Lala Elborno

Ownership...and not just of stock in jello. @EllieRFox

Acknowledge that even if you're innocent, your silence is damaging everything you stood for, even the good things @Brennanator

I would like him to address it and stop hiding. @Rizo78

It's clear that people, regardless of where they stand on the issue, want Cosby to publicly and directly address the claims. After all, Cosby has made his living for decades speaking to the public as a comedian; his silence adds to the sense that he's hiding something.

But this silence appears calculated. Perhaps he thought we would collectively move on when the next big story came along. Or maybe he banked on the fact that when three women came forward in the mid-2000s to make similar allegations of sexual misconduct, we simply didn't seem to care. Sadly, I was among those who didn't pay much attention.

Silence this time won't work for Cosby. Already he has lost TV deals with NBC and Netflix. His reputation is in shambles. And while Cosby has escaped criminal prosecution, it's clear that in the court of public opinion, many have found Cosby guilty.

Will Cosby ever come forward and address the issues head on? Unlikely. But the upside to this incident, if one can be found, is that the allegations have raised awareness about sexual assault.

In fact, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, an organization that combats sexual assault, said last Monday that the national publicity over the Cosby scandal has caused a 50% increase in phone calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

It appears that the courageous women who have come forward with these allegations against Cosby have inspired other women to report sexual assaults that they have endured. And maybe, just maybe, the media attention concerning the allegations against Cosby will even save some women from suffering the same fate in the future.

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