Camille Cosby, Evin Harrah Cosby, Bill Cosby. Photo by Getty Images
Bill Cosby has been called many names in the wake of allegations that he raped and sexually abused upwards of two dozen women over the last four decades. But to the four women who love him unconditionally, he only has one name: Dad.
On Tuesday, Cosby’s 38-year-old daughter Evin Harrah Cosby, a New York City boutique owner, released the following statement to Access Hollywood in support of the 77-year-old comedian. “He is the FATHER you thought you knew. The Cosby Show was my today’s tv reality show. Thank you. That’s all I would like to say :).” Evin has also been praising her dad on her Facebook page, posting tweets from fellow supporters, along with a statement by her mother Camille Cosby, who called the reports on her husband of 40 years a portrait “of a man I don’t know.”
Evin is the only daughter thus far to speak publicly on the allegations toward her father; Cosby’s other daughters — Ensa, 41, an actress; Erinn, 48, a PhD candidate; and Erika, 49, a painter — have remained silent. (The couple’s 19-year-old son Ennis was murdered in 1997). And while it’s impossible to know how the Cosby children are feeling right now, one thing is undoubtedly clear: Navigating life in a world where a parent is the subject of such controversy has to be difficult.
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The Cosby family is notoriously close-knit and tight-lipped. In a rare interview with Oprah in 2010, Camille explained how she drew from the support of her family after her son’s death. She also described the couple’s parenting style. “With five different children, you have five different ways to parent. You’re not always successful, no matter what you do, because nothing is definite about how your children will turn out. Sometimes they take a wrong turn, and you have to rein them in.” The Cosby kids were enrolled in the public system in lieu of fancy private academies until they were in high school so they would be exposed to a more cultural and ethnic mix of students.
Bill and Camille’s daughters also had rules, and clear consequences for when they were broken, and the couple presented a united front when it came to discipline. “And we always let them know, ‘This home is our home, this is our money, these are our material things—not yours. You haven’t earned them yet. We’re giving you a gift to be raised in this environment. You have to prepare to forge your own way in the world,’” Camille told Oprah. “I teach by example. I don’t expect my children to be like me, but to have my same sense of morals and values. They are clear when I am displeased. I tell them, ‘I don’t care what your peers are doing; you cannot do that. I don’t care how much money your father and I have; you cannot have that.’ I am very clear, and Bill is, too. We are together on this.”
But the family wasn’t always so grounded. In a 1989 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cosby said he and his wife gave their daughter Erinn “tough love” after she developed a drug problem. He said of his then-23-year-old daughter, “Right now we’re estranged. She can’t come here. She’s not a person you can trust. You think you’re not a good parent because you don’t answer the call. But you can’t let the kid use you.” According to PEOPLE, the father-daughter pair has since reconciled.
The Cosby kids have much to grapple with now — going from having a father as well-known and beloved as Cosby (whose nickname was “America’s Favorite Dad”), to one who is accused of violence against women. That’s a lot to unpack. For starters, it’s common for kids of any age to identify with one parent over the other — for the daughters who empathize with Camille, they may feel betrayed by their father’s alleged actions; for those closer to Cosby, they may not want to accept the possibility of his wrong-doing or, if they believe the accusations, they may become angry with their father. What’s more, according to Fran Walfish, PsyD, psychologist and expert panelist on WE tvs’ Sex Box, the daughters’ overall sense of self is likely rooted in being a “Cosby kid,” so the accusations could shake their core foundation, marring their self-esteem. “The daughters could feel a sense of ambivalence, unable to reconcile the good and bad parts of their father, making it more difficult to develop coping mechanisms,” Walfish tells Yahoo Parenting.
There’s also the serious nature of Cosby’s alleged actions. These weren’t run-of-the-mill affairs — they were sex crimes, which, to a daughter, may be especially tough to cope with. Some of the Cosby children are also parents themselves, with established careers, so their father’s controversy and the public reaction to it could complicate their personal, professional and social lives.
That’s where a solid support system comes in. “A good friend will give space for the one hurting to initiate the topic but it would help for the daughters to confide in a select few who genuinely care for their wellbeing,” says Walfish. And working through any sadness, rage, and confusion amongst the sisters in a group setting would benefit greatly. “There is strength in the fact that all four sisters are experiencing the same event together,” says Walfish. “In many ways, that’s crucial for their healing.”