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Will Bill Cosby’s Rape Conviction Satisfy People Who Want Accusations to Be “Proven” Before We Listen to Them?

bill cosby, trial, guilty, rape, assault

Of the many, many women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, his recent trial was only addressing the rape of one woman, Andrea Constand. That’s mostly due to the restrictive and completely bullshit statute of limitations in rape cases. But in a historical outcome from what was already a landmark case—the first major criminal trial of the #MeToo era—Bill Cosby has been found guilty on all counts of sexual assault.

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Cosby was tried on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, and while each charge (penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious, and penetration after administering an intoxicant) carries a potential penalty of 10 years in prison, it is possible for those sentences to be served concurrently. Nevertheless, this is a huge moment—both, I’m sure, for Constand herself, but also for every one of Cosby’s victims, as well as every victim of sexual assault who resisted coming forward for fear that the justice system wouldn’t support them.

Constand exemplified so many of the things that hold survivors back from telling their stories, let alone prosecuting their assailants. She went to the police in 2005 and was ignored. She pressed charges in 2015 and two years later, her case ended in a mistrial. She sat in that courtroom while Cosby’s lawyers slandered her, calling her a “con artist” who wanted nothing but “Money, money and lots more money.”

When victims of sexual assault speak of their experiences, there is always an army of voices at the ready, asking the same question: “Why didn’t you tell someone? Why didn’t you go to the police?” Constand did that, and was still dragged through the mud. When victims speak of their experiences, those voices are there, giving the benefit of every doubt to the accused. Because, as they say, “He hasn’t been convicted of any crime.”

Bill Cosby has been convicted of a crime. Three of them, in fact. I wish I could believe that this would do something to silence those voices of doubt, that aren’t really “doubts” but accusations of lying made against survivors. But there will always be people who don’t want to believe women, no matter how much we do “right,” no matter how much proof there is.

Today isn’t their day, though. Today, a very powerful man was convicted by a jury of his peers for violating a very brave woman. Today we can replace that litigation-evading “allegedly” with the word “convicted” when we call him a rapist. May he be the first of many to pay for these things they’ve done.

(via NYT, image: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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