It was a day many of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault thought they would never see.
And when it finally came, some said it fell short of their expectations.
Nevertheless, when Cosby was sentenced on Tuesday, several of the women said it brought them a measure of closure that once seemed out of reach.
“Today, I feel a victory in my soul and in my heart,” said Sarita Butterfield, who claims Cosby drugged and raped her in his home on Christmas Eve 1979.
“Today, I am free.”
Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years for the aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand in 2004. He has maintained his innocence in Constand’s case and regarding other accusations. Judge Steven O’Neill characterized that stance as a lack of remorse, which factored into his sentence.
Dozens of other women have come forward over the years with similar allegations that the man once known as “America’s dad” drugged and raped them. Most of those claims will never go to trial because of state laws that set time limits on prosecuting sex crimes, and to some, the women may forever be known as “accusers” rather than victims or survivors.
But now many of those women say they feel emboldened to challenge statutes of limitations so other victims will have a chance at justice.
Several women who have accused Cosby of assault shared their reactions to his sentence on Tuesday. Here’s what they had to say.
‘My life could have been so much more’
Stacey Pinkerton was one of many women to accuse Cosby of sending her life into a tailspin after an alleged encounter in 1986.
People told her to keep quiet about it, so she did until she started hearing accounts from other women, she said.
“How has it impacted my life? It is impacted in every way possible, most of all my health, my career and decision to further my studies at the time.”
She moved repeatedly after the alleged encounter, she said. She eventually settled in Europe, a place where it was possible to avoid seeing his face on television in the heyday of his career.
“No place was far enough away from Mr. Cosby,” she said. “No matter what, these things stay with you forever. It affects your health and trust.”
Sunni Welles said she was a virgin when Cosby drugged and raped her in 1965. Her mother, a Hollywood agent, was a friend of his, Welles said. When Cosby invited 17-year-old Welles to a nightclub, her mother “felt in every way that she could trust him,” Welles said in Tuesday’s news conference.
Now, Welles said, she has trouble trusting anyone. She has struggled to maintain sexually intimate relationships and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.
“You looked for weaknesses that you could exploit,” Welles said, addressing Cosby. “My life could have been so much more and so much better than what it became.”
For many woman, the sentencing was bittersweet, given Cosby’s continued claims of innocence.
Kathy McKee, who has accused the comedian of attacking her in 1974, said an apology would have made the sentencing complete.
“I saw the violence in Bill Cosby when he attacked me,” she said. “I’m just struggling to keep going every day.”
McKee is one of several women suing Cosby for defamation, another potential avenue of justice for accusers who may never have their day in criminal court.
Still, the allegations against Cosby led California to drop its statute of limitations on rape, and many women said the fight will continue.
“Your arrogance led a group of wounded women to come together, to support one another, to form a bond that can never be broken,” Janice Baker-Kinney, who testified against Cosby, wrote in a statement addressing him directly. Her lawyer, Gloria Allred, read her comments aloud during a news conference after Tuesday’s sentencing.
“Your arrogance sparked a movement that has grown to thousands of women taking back their self-esteem and proudly standing up for what is morally right,” Baker-Kinney said.
“Thank you for your enormous ego and arrogance, for without it we might not be here today.”
Linda Kirkpatrick urged people not to pity Cosby because of his age. “He did not consider my age when he gave me a life sentence of traumatic memories,” she said.
Actress Lili Bernard called the sentence a “hallelujah moment” despite feeling “mixed emotions” over its length.
“On the one hand I feel absolutely elated that justice was served. On the other hand I also feel disappointed, because clearly the three-year minimum sentence does not adequately reflect the havoc this man, this rapist, has inflicted on so many women, including myself,” Bernard said.
“It does indicate there is now a shift in the legal system that is now going to reflect modern culture, and that now women’s voices are being believed and women’s lives are being valued.”