Jennifer Thompson, formerly known as "Jena T.," adds her identity to list of 39 women making claims against the comedian
As Bill Cosby goes to court seeking to discredit three women who’ve accused him of sexual offenses, a Florida woman who previously shared her story anonymously is revealing her identity for the first time to support those women and 35 others who’ve made claims against the comedian.
“It’s come to my understanding that there’s greater credibility for my testimony with a full name and an image,” Jennifer K. “Kaya” Thompson, who formerly went public only as “Jena T.”, tells PEOPLE exclusively. Thompson is not part of the defamation lawsuit filed against Cosby by those three women, nor any other pending legal action against Cosby, but says, “This has been a very huge chapter of my life, and I want to stand up and support others.”
Thompson, 44, first told her story to PEOPLE, describing her experience as a 17-year-old in 1988 who visited a New York City modeling agency and was sent right away to meet Cosby at the height of his fame on The Cosby Show. Cosby later met her parents and gave them his assurance that he would help the aspiring model from Maryland launch her career.
But that interest quickly devolved, Thompson says, into uncomfortable advances by Cosby that collapsed her expectations, beliefs and self-esteem for decades. Eventually seeking “closure,” she described a last encounter with Cosby at his New York City home in the late 1980s during which, as she previously told PEOPLE, “he knew on some level that I was probably ready to give in.”
“He put his leg between my two legs, but I wasn’t excited. But I knew that that was the point – I had to get him excited. The whole thing was like – I just knew that I gave him a hand job.” Cosby told her where to find lotion in the house, she claims, and she got it. “I’m like a robot, and that is what I became, and that is what I did for him.” Before leaving, she says, Cosby gave her $700.
When “Jena T.” went public in November 2014, Cosby’s attorney Martin Singer told PEOPLE, “It’s absurd to publish this unsubstantiated story from this anonymous person.” Singer had previously called the resurgence of allegations against Cosby – leveled publicly by a current total of 39 women, according PEOPLE’s count – “unsubstantiated (and) fantastical.”
Singer did not respond to a request for comment about Thompson’s decision to reveal her identity.
Thompson had been prepared to offer testimony as one of 13 Jane Does in a 2005 civil suit brought by Andrea Constand, who later settled out-of-court. In revealing only her first name last fall, Thompson said, “Every time the story comes up I feel a little bit more alive, like maybe one day this will be common knowledge and I won’t have to be undercover anymore about this part of my life.”
What changed to make her share her full identity now?
“Time,” she says. “I decided to speak my truth. I would rather go to bed at night knowing that I’ve been honest.”
She also says he has young nieces who are enamored of Hollywood, and she wants them to understand the downside of celebrity worship. “There was a time when he made me laugh,” she says of Cosby the entertainer. “I was raised listening to his albums.” In addition, Thompson’s father is African-American (her mother is Caucasian) and he shares Cosby’s first name; growing up in a mixed-race household, Thompson says, she saw comfort and affirmation in Cosby’s paternal TV persona that was later upended by her own experience.
As the one-time Jane Doe No. 2, Thompson says in a statement to PEOPLE, “I am so very grateful for the Jane Doe who came before me in the lawsuit ten years ago. At that time, to hear another woman’s support of one of Cosby’s victims by the admission of her own story was beyond affirming and I felt that a cloud that was above me began to lift off. My mother and I were very eager to give our support via testimony at that time – however, not to the general public. I was not quite strong enough then.”
“From what I have come to understand, my inability to give a full name or an image in the case a decade ago prevented credibility with decision-makers or editors about revealing my testimony and experience to the public. Likewise today, without a full name to stand my story upon, I am regarded as less credible. And I am getting older; I am a bit tired of the charade.”
She’s also been emboldened by the defamation lawsuit brought by Tamara Green – the former Jane Doe No. 1 – that was later joined by Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz. Green, 56, a retired attorney who claims Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1969 or 1970, filed her lawsuit last December, saying that Cosby’s representatives defamed her in comments they made to Newsweek and The Washington Post.
Says Thompson: “It is not easy for me to explain why the lies Cosby’s camp are spewing are injurious. Of what I have seen, the verbiage is ludicrous and the word ‘insulting’ isn’t quite good enough to fit the emotion they provoke within. I honestly do my very best to avoid reading and/or entertaining every bit of their untruthfulness.”
She adds: “Because of the esteem the greater public has regarded him with for decades, that is not a task to easily achieve as I cannot in totality ever avoid the public completely – although for many years I will say that I tried.”
By revealing her name now, Thompson says, “I hope to feel relief. There are great costs to this kind of experience. This is why I came forward as a Jane Doe in 2005 as well. It redeemed me somehow inside to know that I was standing up for the truth.”
“My ultimate hope would be for him to ‘come clean,’ admit his weakness, attempt to rectify where he has harmed so very many (within himself first, of course), and maybe even have a chance for redeeming his own soul/karma as well.”