It's been four days sinceNew York magazine's explosive cover story,"Cosby: The Women"went viral.In this media-saturated world,it's still ubiquitous.And why?Is it really such a big deal?After all,this scandal has been simmering for years;Hannibal Buress's "you rape women,Bill Cosby" joke trended last October.

Yes,it's officially a Big Deal.

Just look at those 35 women,doxed and dangerous,all accusing a beloved celebrity of sexual assault,staring down the denial of a crime that's still too often dismissed.If the grid of those images doesn't hit you enough,there's the last chair—empty.It was meant,according toNew York's editors,to represent Cosby's 11 other accusers who declined to be photographed,plus all America's rape victims who have yet to come forward about their attacker.

Inside the magazine,the women do not hold back as they—finally—tell their stories.Heidi Thomas reports she met Cosby in 1984 for what she thought was a private acting session.After he poured a glass of wine for a scene set in a bar,she said,"I really don't remember much,except waking up in his bedroom.He was naked,and he was forcing himself into my mouth." Victoria Valentino alleges that in 1969 she and her roommate went to dinner with the actor,and he gave her a pill to feel better.Afterward,she recalled,"I couldn't form words in my mouth because I was so drugged out....He sat down and unzipped his fly.He had me give him oral sex,and then he stood me up,turned me over,did me doggy style,and walked out."

The stories go on.Their courage,unmistakable.And the ripple effect?More like giant waves."We've seen a 15 percent increase in demand for the National Sexual Assault Hotline's online chat ( since theNew Yorkmagazine cover,compared with the previous week," says Katherine Hull Fliflet,spokeswoman for the Rape,Abuse & Incest National Network."And many are referencing the Bill Cosby coverage,as to why they contacted us with their own stories."

The conversation continues on at #theemptychair.

But what about next week?Next month?Will the calls and tweets slump back to what they were before?Despite the roar about preventing sexual assault everywhere from college campuses to in our military ranks,68 percent of rapes are still not reported to the police,according to RAINN.Can a moment like the Cosby cover move the needle on that depressing stat?


People were asking the same question last September about the Ray Rice video—another jolting image that forced us all to see with new eyes an old and intractable problem.After the clip of the Ravens star knocking out his fianc??e,Janay,in an elevator was seen round the world,everyone was talking about domestic violence.And,in fact,calls for help did spike—some 84 percent three days after the video leaked—atthe National Domestic Violence Hotline.Did they dip back down?"Yes,but never to pre-Rice levels," says Katie

*Ray-Jones,the hotline's CEO.In fact,year later,they're still up—from an average of 600 a day to more than 1,100.What's more,the NFL was shamed into supporting the hotline,which means additional staff at the hotline,so that fewer of those calls go unanswered.*

Infuriatingly,Rice is still in the NFL,and Cosby may still avoid prosecution.While these and other cases may not have the most just endings,there is hope that the social media onslaught won't be a temporary blip—it could make a real difference for many women dealing with abuse."Every time there is a high profile news story like this,it helps survivors come forward," says Hull Fliflet."And this story shows it doesn't matter how long ago you were assaulted.The damage can be lasting,and there's always time to get help."

Which means,if you're out there,now you know there's a chair waiting for you.You can come to the table.We,and so many other women,will sit with you—and stand by you—all the difficult way.