Editor’s Note: Anushay Hossain is a writer and political commentator based in Washington. For more, visit AnushaysPoint.com. The views expressed are her own.
Bill Cosby’s legal team attempted to use “Rape Culture 101” tactics to discredit his accuser in court, but the guilty verdict handed down Thursday demonstrates that the days of blaming women for the sexual violence and crimes of famous men are coming to a close. And the law seems to be on women’s side.
A previous trial ended in a hung jury, but the jury in Bill Cosby’s retrial found the TV icon guilty of all three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in a Philadelphia suburb in 2004. The 80-year-old comedian faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.
Despite more than 50 women coming forth with their allegations against Cosby, the only criminal case that went to trial centered on the testimony of Constand, a former employee with the Temple University women’s basketball team. She said that Cosby, a powerful trustee at Temple, initially mentored her and then, when she visited him for career advice, drugged and sexually assaulted her.
The verdict is a major milestone that demonstrates not only how powerful and impactful the #MeToo movement has been, but it also shows that real women’s stories bolstered by a pivotal cultural movement can and will hold up in a court of law.
Though the Cosby allegations predate the fall of Harvey Weinstein, Cosby’s case shows that as a society we are finally done believing the denials of famous men over the words and stories of women. Time is indeed up.
“He [Cosby] is nothing like the image that he plays on TV,” prosecutor Kristen Feden said in court on Tuesday. “In fact, he utilized that image and cloaked himself so that he was able to gain the trust, gain the confidence of these young women so he could strip them of their ability to say no, administering an intoxicant the same way he administered an intoxicant to Andrea Constand.”
There is still a long way to go before we reach the point as a culture where we stand with and believe all women, especially women who live and work without the money, spotlight and glamour of the Hollywood actresses who ignited the visibility of #MeToo.
Women of color and poor women who work in low-income jobs also deserve access to justice, and to have their stories garner just as much attention.
What we learned today is that the stories and truths of women who have suffered and been abused for too long in silence can demand and receive a justice as powerful as the men they are challenging.
And perhaps the most powerful thing of all is the message this verdict sends to little girls around the world that things are changing, your voice matters, and the law just might be able to stand up for you, too.
Cosby’s case demonstrates it is possible.