After the Bill Cosby Verdict, the Fight Against Rape Culture Goes On

Bill Cosby’s rape case has now been deemed a mistrial. Once again, the criminal justice system has failed survivors.

Bill Cosby protestor in Ontario (Wikimedia)

Cosby, who has been accused of sexual assault by over 50 women and so much as admitted to his actions in previous statements, relied on a defense statement for his case that amounted to nothing more than character assasination against the woman bringing him to trial. Brian McMonagle, Cosby’s attorney, spent an hour and a half telling the jury that Andrea Constrand’s rape was her fault—painting her out to be a liar and claiming she wasn’t “acting like she was raped” while simultaneously demanding she should have known her interaction with the comedian would end in sex.

Apparently, this senseless speech hit home with one of the 12 jurors on the case, leading to, first, a split jury and then a mistrial.

None of this is surprising, although it is disappointing. After all, our president is a man accused of being a serial sexual assailant. Bill O’Reilly was given free reign at Fox to harass women for over a decade before finally being forced to resign—even then, with a comfortable severance package. We live in a culture where men are praised for asserting their dominance through sexual violence while women are slut-shamed and ridiculed for speaking up about it. After the verdict, Cosby’s publicist confirmed it—remarking that “Mr. Cosby’s power is back.”

But Cosby’s team will not get the last word. The dozens of women who have come forward to share their stories—many of them eerily similar—of being attacked by Cosby are determined to keep going. And after the trial, they, too, had something to say.

As they made their way out of the courtroom, Gloria Allred began her press conference outside, with two more women who said Cosby had assaulted them also ready to speak. It was a grey, dreary day. The rain had passed but there was no sun, everything was wet. With the gloomy backdrop, Allred went first, saying “We cannot underestimate the blinding power of celebrity.” She then talked about how she hoped in the future the court would allow more “prior bad act witnesses,” which in this case are the dozens of women who say Cosby drugged and assaulted them in a similar manner. She was followed by two of those women: Linda Kirkpatrick and Jewel Allison.

Kirkpatrick also mentioned the victory in changing the state of limitations and said into the microphones, “He thought he could bury us. He did not know we were seeds.” Allison followed her. She said she had prepared statements but she didn’t want to use them. Instead, she said she wanted to speak to the black community. Allison said she felt their pain, and she quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

“It is time for rape and violence to stop so that the healing can start,” Allison said, adding, “Let’s walk together as one family.”

 

It is hard not to be pessimistic at times like these, but we must keep fighting. The fact that this case even went to trial was a huge step in the right direction, brought about by the successful fight by activists in California to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases. And the long-standing activism around this particular case, much like that victory in California, showed survivors that they were not alone and empowered them to seek justice and speak out. In 2016, lawmakers pushed to revoke Cosby’s Medal of Freedom after a petition on the matter garnered 15,000 signatures. That same year, New York magazine published the stories of 35 of Cosby’s accusers. Just this past week, NOW-NY held a rally in support of those survivors of Cosby’s assaults in an attempt to bring attention to drug facilitated rapes and the need for a strengthened Violence Against Women Act.

“Andrea Constrand’s bravery brought the issue of sexual assault out of the shadows,” Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW New York, said in a statement, adding that Constrand “has the gratitude of survivors everywhere for speaking out.”

Too many cases dealing with violence against women that involve powerful men are dismissed. Cosby’s case, instead, has become one that brought the subject of violence against women out into the open. This fight is far from over—and verdicts like these remind us why we must never stop waging battles for justice.

Joelle Rosenberg is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a student at Santa Monica College studying Sociology and Women’s studies. She has worked as a volunteer for Planned Parenthood and dedicated much time and effort into raising awareness about rape culture and sexual assault in colleges around the United Sates. She enjoys outdoor activities such as backpacking, hiking and rock climbing, as well as exploring L.A.’s food scene and spending time with her cats. You can find her on Facebook or Instagram

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