Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

The Bill Cosby verdict has me grieving.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I can empathize with the pain of the women he drugged, raped and preyed on. I was never able to call out my perpetrators and still live with a badge of shame.

And yet, at the hardest times in my life, Bill Cosby was my TV dad. In the 1980s, I was a homeless, abused child on the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles.

My parents were crack addicts. I never knew what or when we might eat next. Sometimes, we had a TV, and when we did, I looked forward to a sense of normalcy on Thursday nights. I was a voyeur in the Huxtable home portrayed on “The Cosby Show.”

I envisioned eating the hoagie sandwiches my TV dad ate. I wanted the orange juice his kids drank. I wanted clothing that was not twice my size marred with holes. I wanted my hair neat and clean. I wanted family dance days.

Instead, I had stolen potted-meat from Thrifty’s. My bed was a cot where maggots dripped on me as I slept. My abusers were always present.

The Huxtable home was my place of peace. In my heart, that was my home.

Since I was young, the homeless rate in Los Angeles has only gotten worse. Over the last six years, the rates of people living on the streets and in shelters has increased by 75 percent. Soaring housing costs have pushed middle-income families out of their homes and into cars, make-shift tents and rundown motels.

As the realities of homelessness worsen, I think of the growing number of children living like I did, and the hope they’ll need to survive. For me, that hope came in part from the figure of Cliff Huxtable, who was portrayed as a loving, funny, wise, fallible, strong black man.

Being a survivor of sexual assault and coming to terms with what my TV dad did is something I must reconcile. As a child, I was physically abused by my mother, but I never stopped loving her. However deep my wounds run, I still desire a relationship with her, and to some degree I have to confront those same feelings when it comes to Cosby.

Today, my children have safe beds, a clean home, hoagies and orange juice. In my work, I help refugees build new lives. I surmounted incredible odds to achieve this on my own, but some of it came from the vision the Huxtable home offered me.

None of this excuses Cosby’s behavior.

I hope these women were able to exhale at the conclusion of the trial. I hope they find freedom in their journey of recovery.

And I hope homeless children find a different dream to hold onto.

Randiesia Fletcher has a master’s degree in education and is a poverty and housing advocate in Tucson. She is a Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project.

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