It shouldn't be shocking when people who commit sexual assault are convicted in criminal court. But we know that rapists rarely go to prison — which is why so many felt a sense of astonishment when Bill Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand. None more so than Cosby's accusers who, like Constand, fought tirelessly for justice. Several of his victims exited the courtroom directly after the verdict was announced, and collapsed into sobs atop the marble railings inside the courthouse. They embraced and held each other while they processed this historic moment.
It's historic because it represents the first time that anyone with such a high profile has been convicted of sexual violence in the #MeToo era. The movement began in October 2017 in Hollywood, with the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reports against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein. Since then, none of the accused men have faced criminal proceedings. But today, Cosby heard a jury proclaim their guilty verdict. It gives us a sense that maybe, sometimes, justice isn't a fleeting wish.
These women, some who testified in court that Cosby sexually assaulted them, have been waiting for this moment for a long time. "Today, this jury has shown what the #MeToo movement has been saying: that women are worthy of being believed," said Lili Bernard, who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.
Lawyer and women's advocate Gloria Allred echoed those sentiments. "It took a great deal of courage" for the victims to come out, she said. "We can finally say that women are believed — not just in a#MeToo hashtag, but in a court of law." Allred was not the prosecutor in the criminal case that was decided today, but she represents 33 of Cosby's accusers in civil proceedings.
Cosby still denies the allegations and all accusations of nonconsensual sex, and his defense lawyers have indicated they will pursue an appeal.
You can watch the video of the victim's reactions below.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.
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