Moment of Truth: What the Cosby trial will reveal about rape
Andrea Constand and Kelly Johnson’s testimonies in the Bill Cosby trial, as well as the dozens of women who’ve shared their stories with the media, shine a light on the real-life dynamics of sexual assault and the ways our justice system consistently fails survivors. Here’s what the case stands to teach us:
Rapists are getting away with inflicting violence.
It’s staggering that 57 women reported sexual assaults by Cosby before he faced a single criminal trial. But the outrageous truth is that less than 3% of reported rapes lead to prison for the perpetrator.
Women are in far more danger of being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance than a stranger.
70% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Cosby, like most perpetrators, targeted women he knew, and like most perpetrators he was a repeat offender. But too often, police and prosecutors fail to aggressively pursue rape cases when the perpetrator is someone the victim knows. Bruce Castor, then district attorney of Montgomery County, PA, is an example: when he was given this case 13 years ago, he refused to prosecute Bill Cosby even though he believed Cosby was guilty.
We must confront drug-facilitated rape.
Victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault suffer both the trauma of being drugged by a potentially lethal substance as well as the trauma of being sexually assaulted. They suffer the anguish of being physically violated and robbed of memory. Perpetrators are choosing drugs that are difficult to detect in the victim’s blood and urine. Thankfully, the best prosecutors are relying on drug recognition experts (DREs) to secure convictions. It’s critical that more police and prosecutors follow that example and rise to the challenge of prosecuting this frighteningly prevalent crime.
Rape myths don’t match reality.
Rape myths hold that “true” survivors go immediately to the police and show no hesitation. However, like Andrea Constand, many survivors need time to process that a trusted person committed a violent crime against them. They often try reflexively to go back to “normal” life, even maintaining their behavior towards the perpetrator. They often need days, weeks, months, or even years to come forward. Cosby’s attorneys have already attempted to invalidate Andrea Constand due to her reporting the assault a year later and staying in touch with Cosby after the assault. However, these actions are consistent with the struggles of many survivors who are assaulted by someone they know. Andrea Constand’s courageous decision to tell her story in the spotlight is continuing the struggle to confront rape culture, stop perpetrators, and end the silence and stigma surrounding sexual assault.
What The Cosby Trial Reveals About Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault – WNYC – June 14, 2017
After 16 Hours, Jury Unable to Reach Verdict at Bill Cosby Trial – The Phoenix – June 14, 2017
Bill Cosby Jury Quits for the Night, No Verdict – Newsworks – June 14, 2017
Sex Crimes Take Front Seat at Cosby Trial – NBC 10 – June 13, 2017
National Organization for Women Members are Holding Signs Outside of the Courthouse as the Jury Deliberates – BuzzFeed – June 13, 2017
Jury Works Through Second Night at Bill Cosby Trial – The Times Herald– June 13, 2017
Take Rape Seriously NOW is a campaign of NOW New York. We provide direct services to survivors of sexual assault, and we stand with survivors in seeking accountability for perpetrators, confronting rape culture, defending the Violence Against Women Act, and holding our elected officials accountable to the women of New York.
For more info or for expert commentary and analysis, contact Jean Bucaria at (212) 627-9895.