Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report." He's also the co-director of the documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) -- By now, we have all heard the allegations made by numerous women that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them. At least 15 have accused him of abuse, with the first incident in the late 1960s and the last in 2004.
While his attorneys have denied most of these assertions, Cosby has publicly refused to comment. In fact just a few weeks ago, Cosby not only declined to answer an Associated Press reporter's question about the claims, he told the reporter that he would appreciate it if any reference to the allegations not appear in the story.
So now what? Well, it's not likely Cosby will be criminally prosecuted. The only alleged incident that clearly falls within the criminal statute of limitations is the one involving Andrea Constand. That event purportedly took place in 2004 in Pennsylvania, a state that provides victims with 12 years to file a criminal complaint in sexual assault cases.
But don't count on seeing a criminal action. In part, because the prosecutor didn't find sufficient evidence to prosecute back in 2005. In addition, Cosby paid an undisclosed sum to Constand in 2006 to settle the civil lawsuit arising from the alleged sexual assault. I can tell you as a former trial lawyer that that civil settlement would have, without a doubt, included a release by Constand of all claims against Cosby, including criminal.
Cosby's career has been deeply damaged by the ongoing scandal and he has been denounced pretty much everywhere.
Is there something that he could do now that could persuade the millions of people who were once his fans to potentially see him again as a comedian, not as a serial rapist -- which is how I now see him?
I posed this question on social media: What do we want from Bill Cosby now?
The responses revealed an interesting cross section of opinion from men and women on all sides of the issue. And while they varied greatly, a common theme emerged. But before I mention that one, here are some of the often thought-provoking comments I received in response to the question.
Leave him alone. @MLCzone
"Make a massive donation to a rape prevention program." Comment on Facebook from Lynn Harris
"He should apologize to his victims. Maybe pay compensation as well." Comment on Facebook from Basel Ammane.
Car battery, jumper cables and a narcoleptic switchwoman @maverick_kris
These comments truly reflect the range of responses I received, with many advocating Cosby be imprisoned and a few defending him. But the most common reaction was this:
"Tell the truth!" Comment on Facebook from Lala Elborno
Ownership...and not just of stock in jello. @EllieRFox
It's clear that people, regardless of where they stand on the issue, want Cosby to publicly and directly address the claims. After all, Cosby has made his living for decades speaking to the public as a comedian; his silence adds to the sense that he's hiding something.
But this silence appears calculated. Perhaps he thought we would collectively move on when the next big story came along. Or maybe he banked on the fact that when three women came forward in the mid-2000s to make similar allegations of sexual misconduct, we simply didn't seem to care. Sadly, I was among those who didn't pay much attention.
Silence this time won't work for Cosby. Already he has lost TV deals with NBC and Netflix. His reputation is in shambles. And while Cosby has escaped criminal prosecution, it's clear that in the court of public opinion, many have found Cosby guilty.
Will Cosby ever come forward and address the issues head on? Unlikely. But the upside to this incident, if one can be found, is that the allegations have raised awareness about sexual assault.
In fact, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, an organization that combats sexual assault, said last Monday that the national publicity over the Cosby scandal has caused a 50% increase in phone calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
It appears that the courageous women who have come forward with these allegations against Cosby have inspired other women to report sexual assaults that they have endured. And maybe, just maybe, the media attention concerning the allegations against Cosby will even save some women from suffering the same fate in the future.