Editorial: Cosby conviction empowers sexual assault victims



Bill Cosby is taken to jail to be processed after being sentenced in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Tim Tai/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Bill Cosby will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. The 81-year-old, formerly known as  “America’s dad,” left the courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday after he was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004.

But while Cosby laments his wrongdoings, shackled in a lowly prison cell, every victim of sexual assault should rejoice. Cosby’s conviction is a huge milestone for sexual assault victims — he is the first high-profile public figure since the #MeToo movement began to be convicted — proving that victims’ accusations can hold up in a court of law, not just public opinion.

“It is time for justice,” Judge Steven T. O’Neill said as he announced Cosby’s sentence. “Fallen angels suffer most.”

O’Neill’s comments ring true for Cosby, but unfortunately so many other male celebrities who have been accused of sexual assault have never faced adequate punishment. Sexual assault accusations very rarely lead to jail time for the accused, even though according to an FBI study only 2 percent of accusations are false.

Cosby faced accusations from more than 60 women, but it still took three years and two trials for him to be convicted — his first trial in 2017 ended in a hung jury after his arrest in 2015. And during the nearly 50 years that Cosby preyed on young women — according to reports from swathes of accusers — Hollywood stayed silent.

“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it,” Constand wrote in a court statement. “He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others.”

But Cosby’s conviction brings hope that other victims’ stories will be taken more seriously in the coming months — other victims like Christine Blasey Ford who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh last week of sexually assaulting her in high school.

Even though Ford’s claims fall beyond the statute of limitations — the incident allegedly took place 36 years ago — she can spoil Kavanaugh’s confirmation by simply convincing six of 51 Senate Republicans that her allegations are true.

Cosby’s conviction should bring a dose of reality to Senate Republicans. It proves that victims’ horrific stories aren’t just effective enough to spark a cultural revolution like the #MeToo movement — they’re legally valid too.

Cosby’s conviction is a step in the right direction — but it’s just that, a single step. Society has a lot further to go before it recognizes the true plight these victims face and actually brings perpetrators to justice.

Cosby only received a relatively short prison sentence for his crimes — but his victims, and other sexual assault victims, have been sentenced to a lifetime of trauma and scarring memories for something that wasn’t their fault.

The court made the right decision indicting Cosby, and hopefully Senate Republicans will make the right decision by denying Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court. These crimes have taken place for far too long — and we shouldn’t stand by as powerful men get away with them.