Bill Cosby verdict a victory for sexual assault survivors


Bill Cosby verdict a victory for sexual assault survivors

By Ariana Portalatin

Pennsylvania jury found Bill Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, a landmark decision in the wake of the Me Too movement showing that survivors of sexual assault will be believed. 

After 14 hours of deliberation, the jury made the announcement to a silent Cosby and an emotional group of women who testified. The 80-year-old comedian now faces a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison, up to $750,000 in fines and will be sentenced within 90 days following a pre-sentence investigation.

The verdict is a major accomplishment considering the first trial in June 2016 resulted in a mistrial and the majority of survivors were accused of fabricating stories for fame and fortune. But, as Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said after the verdict, Cosby—once proclaimed as “America’s Dad”— “was an actor for a long time.”

“What was revealed through this investigation was a man who had spent decades preying on women that he drugged and sexually assaulted, and a man who evaded this moment right here far too long,” Steele said. “He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes.” 

Legal observers have called the Cosby retrial a major test of the effects of the Me Too movement, which came about during the first and second trial, according to an April 26 NPR article.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented many of the women accusing Cosby of misconduct, said the verdict sets the stage for women to be believed.

“We are so happy that finally we can say, women are believed. And not only on #MeToo but in a court of law where they are under oath, where they testified truthfully, where they are attacked,” Allred said. “After all is said and done, women were finally believed.”

The bravery of women in the trial and in the Me Too movement to share their stories amid backlash has paved the way for more  victories. Heidi Thomas, who also accused Cosby of assault, told the courtroom, “I want to see a serial rapist convicted,” a statement bold enough to elicit gasps from spectators.

While Cosby’s guilty verdict drew praise from survivors everywhere, higher education institutions have also responded to the verdict.

According to an April 26 CNN article, multiple universities decided to revoke honorary degrees previously awarded to Cosby to take a stance against sexual misconduct. 

Hours after the verdict, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, announced it would revoke Cosby’s 2007 honorary degree. The University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, also revoked its 1990 honorary degree and Temple University in Philadelphia, of which Cosby was a Board of Trustees member for 32 years before stepping down in 2014, said the verdict would prompt reconsideration of its own honorary degree.

The universities’ decisions are necessary when many women are also assaulted on college campuses. These institutions are right for revoking the degree, but they must also make sure their commitment to not tolerate sexual violence and harassment is upheld when their own students are affected. 

The Me Too movement combined with the Bill Cosby verdict supports women everywhere and assures our voices are and will continue to be heard.