New York Magazine’s latest issue, published this past Sunday, depicts 35 of the 46 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them over the past few decades, all sitting in the same chair.
The stark black-and-white image demands that we take note of the individual women that were victimized by Cosby—their names, their faces and the indelible truth behind them—as well as the solidarity between them. The sheer number of them, made so clear in this single image, is arresting.
The art direction NY Mag used for #TheEmptyChair is so effective because you’re forced to acknowledge these women as individual people.— William Ketchum III (@WEKetchum) July 27, 2015
But perhaps most poignant is the empty chair at the bottom-right corner, symbolic of the women who haven’t come forward, who haven’t been able to come forward. And not just those victimized by Cosby.
The evocative cover and the ensuing hashtag #TheEmptyChair have ignited new conversation about rape, and the social conditions that prevent victims of rape from speaking out, that prevent justice from being served.
A number of the women depicted went public decades ago, but were scorned by the media. Others were unable to speak out in time for fear of the same public scrutiny.
Someone you know sits on that #TheEmptyChair Sexual abuse is that common.— Robin Coleman (@robbieBOLD) July 27, 2015
It’s not until last fall that accusers were finally heard, and Cosby held responsible in the public eye.
Wow. Strong covers from NY Mag and NY Daily News on Cosby. pic.twitter.com/rKT7owz67c— Ashleigh Wilson (@ashleighbwilson) July 27, 2015
But it’s clear that the struggle is far from over. Shortly after posting its newest issue, which included individual interviews with the 35 women, a distributed denial-of-service hacking attack took down the website.
The hacker, who calls himself “ThreatKing,” said that his intention was not an attempt to silence the 35 women, but instead an attack against New York City itself. But such a claim stretches the imagination. If his grudge was against NY, why target NYMag alone, and why precisely at this time?
The site is still down as of the posting of this article, preventing us from hearing these women’s stories just yet.
But their portraits have gone viral, and continue to spread. So even if Cosby never faces the legal consequences of his actions, this image will remain an indelible marker of his guilt, and a comfort for other men and women struggling to come forward.
Some have already begun to share their stories.
Read more: Why Isn’t Bill Cosby In Jail Yet?