New Cosby Victim emerges in light of conviction — “I was just 16 years old.”
Dona Speir first got the news about last week’s criminal conviction of comedian Bill Cosby via text.
As she described to me, “I received the text, ‘BC GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS.’ The first thought that went through my mind was FINALLY… the feeling was freedom. He can’t hurt me now. He can’t hurt me from telling my truth. I don’t need an attorney. I don’t need to hide behind anyone. I can own and tell my truth. Not be bullied. No fear, no one coming after me. All the money he has and his army can’t stop me. HIS truth has been exposed. It’s his shame now. Not mine.”
Then another text came in.
“It was an emoji heart. It was from a childhood girlfriend of mine. My teenage girlfriend who had met him and was practically locked in her hotel room by his handlers so he could get to me. I had hid the truth to her at that time about what had happened between him and I. One of the millions of times I lied for Bill Cosby.”
Now living near Los Gatos, California, back in the late 1970s, Speir was a stunning yet compulsive Orange County teenager who, at 16 years old, found herself being groomed and seduced by Bill Cosby, then an international star and one of the most trusted spokesman in the country; the man who would soon be thought of as “America’s Dad.”
A Southern California neighbor who played tennis with Cosby passed along Speir’s headshot to the comedian, and days later she was on a plane to Pittsburgh to appear in a children’s TV series Cosby hosted. Several days later she flew with him to a performance in Texas. They spent that night together in his hotel suite, thus starting a confusing, tumultuous nearly-three-year relationship where Speir became Cosby’s friend, confidante and traveling companion.
There is a 26-year difference between Cosby and Speir.
The immediate question would seem to be, how did her parents allow this to happen? Cosby, perhaps sensing the dangers of them becoming aware, made them part of the traveling circus, winning them over with lavish vacations, gifts and VIP treatment. He and Speir kept the relationship private, and to the outside world, her parents included, he was just being a mentor. But inside the comedian’s most exclusive bubble, the teenager was showered with gifts, attention and all but coerced into intimacy with him. She met members of his family, visited his house and spent endless nights watching his act in Vegas and Atlantic City. The years they were together, she could drink and get high as much as she wanted; Cosby seemed to impose no rules beyond be quiet and be there when he wanted.
As Speir recounts today, “The pain and confusion I eventually felt lingered for years. But strangely, as with most victims, looking back now, I know that he had groomed me. But back then I didn’t even know such a term existed. Being 16 is hard enough. Your world is already difficult. But when you throw this in, it gets extremely complicated. Bill Cosby had taken me under his wing and ushered me into his rarified world that included both the best and worst of everything. The pain and confusion I eventually uncovered took years of unravelling. Being with him accelerated my drug and alcohol use. That’s how I dealt with what had happened to me.”
By the early 1980s, she would become a sought-after model with major contracts, there was television, she was a Playboy centerfold, and eventually even a cult-film star. But that was years away when she was with Cosby.
Today, clean and sober for more than 30 years, Speir does what she has done for decades: helps young women get sober themselves. That’s exactly what she was doing when the texts started coming in.
“I was sitting on the couch at the time the texts came in, listening to a 5th step from a beautiful young woman through my twelve-step program. She was pouring her heart out to me about her past, how it affected her. My job as her 12-step sponsor is to listen with love and compassion to help find patterns and and to stop the madness. Funny, that’s what Bill said he would do with me.
“I spent the following day with another young woman who can’t get sober. She’s had constant relapses. We sat and had lunch with her 16-year-old daughter. As I looked at her I realized I was her age when I met Cosby. She was trying so hard to be an adult. Yet like myself at her age, she was so wounded by life, looking so desperately for love and something to cling to. I had to sit and explain to her that her mother was going away for up to 6 months. All this sweet, young girl wanted was love, to be held and nurtured. It was the kind of girl Bill always looked for. It was me. I held her as she cried. I rocked her and told her she didn’t have to do this alone. That she was worthy and loved.”
Now, in the wake of the verdict, Speir wants to share her story with the world.
“For years, I’ve been told by many that I should write a book. But because I could not share my whole truth, I have not. Now, with the verdict, it finally seems like the right time. We live in a society today where it seems like the clock is turning back, where more than ever, politicians, celebrities and athletes are using their fame and power to prey on their victims of choice, with zero regard for the lives they leave in ruins. Theses abuses will never stop unless we confront the issue head on, without fear of speaking out. I’m very anxious to tell my story now. It has many highs and lows but it’s ultimately a story of triumph and again, I expect that many women will be able to relate to it.
I want my story to remind people that you can still survive the ravages of abuse and addiction. All kinds of abuse from drugs and alcohol to predators. I want women to know that it’s OK to speak out and stand up without guilt and shame. I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ back then because at 16 years old, I wanted to feel loved, accepted and feel worthy. Times are different today and empowerment matters. But more importantly, truth matters.”