Harvey Weinstein. Bill Cosby. Matt Lauer. Mario Batali. Charlie Rose. Russell Simmons. Kevin Spacey. These are just a few of the high-powered men who have recently been accused of sexual harassment. It was, perhaps, Bill Cosby, the supposed family man, who was most shocking. Mr. Cosby has been accused of sexually harassing and/or drugging 60 different women in the last fifty years. However, because of statute of limitation laws, only one accuser, Andrea Constand, has been able to file a criminal case against Mr. Cosby.
Bill Cosby has stood on trial two times, the first being in 2017, for the allegations Ms. Constand has made against him. Ms. Constand argues that, upon arriving to Mr. Cosby’s home, he gave her what she believed were herbal drugs; however, she eventually lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, she claims Mr. Cosby was sexually assaulting her. On the other side of the issue, is Mr. Cosby, who claims that he gave Ms. Constand over the counter Benadryl and that the sex was consensual.
The first trial, in June 2017, for the sexual abuse allegations against Bill Cosby resulted in a hung jury, where the jury was unable to agree on a decision about the case. This resulted in a retrial which took place nearly a year later in April 2018. The difference in both the climate and culture between the initial trial and retrial were markedly different. For one, in that year between the two trials, the #MeToo movement, an anti-sexual assault campaign, evolved to become a national phenomenon. Second, in the first trial Ms. Constand was the only witness; however, in the retrial five additional women came forward and testified of their experience with Mr. Cosby drugging and assaulting them.
Andrea Constand didn’t contact police for one year following the incident; that on top of the fact that these criminal charges were being pursued over ten years after the incident occurred, made many people skeptical about the claims Ms. Constand was making against Mr. Cosby. However, the skepticisms were quickly put the rest when the first witness, Dr. Ziv, a sexual assault expert, took the stand. While on the stand, Dr. Ziv stated a number of facts about sexual abuse, including, that less than 7 percent of sexual assault allegations are false; 85 percent of victims know who the perpetrator is; he also stated that less than 30 percent of victims report the abuse to authorities. The result of the retrial was that Bill Cosby is guilty of the claims made against him.
The fact that Bill Cosby was found guilting and that so many people have come forward with stories of sexual abuse proves that cultural changes are being made within the United States. It proves that sexual abuse by people holding authority will no longer be tolerated. It proves that people who are victims of sexual abuse will no longer feel shamed because they didn’t do anything wrong.
Jeff Herman is a nationally recognized attorney and owner or Herman Law. He’s been representing victims for over 20 years and has won multiple landmark cases.