THEIR VIEW: Listen to the survivors

Published on Monday, 1 October 2018 17:54
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Bill Cosby, the 81-year-old actor and comic once revered as “America’s Dad,” walked out of a Pennsylvania courtroom Tuesday in handcuffs, headed for a state prison cell. “It is time for justice. . . . The day has come,” said the judge who sentenced him to three to 10 years for sexually assaulting a woman 14 years ago.

Cosby’s reckoning was long - too long - in coming. But it showed that when women’s accusations of sexual assault are treated with the seriousness they deserve, even long-ago crimes can be fairly prosecuted.

The comedian was found guilty in April of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his Pennsylvania home in 2004.

Cosby had mentored Constand when she worked at his alma mater, Temple University. It was the second trial for Cosby - the first ended in mistrial.

It was hard not feel some sadness as this aging and visually impaired man was led away. Who can ever again watch “The Cosby Show” or “I Spy” or “Fat Albert” with any kind of enjoyment? Sympathy, though, goes not to Cosby but to the many victims of his terrible crimes.

Anyone who dares to doubt the damage that results from sexual assault need only read the impact statement submitted to the court by Constand. “Life as I knew it,” she wrote, “came to an abrupt halt” after her attack. Constand’s statement also provides powerful - and timely - insight into why victims frequently don’t report the crimes immediately, particularly when their assailant has power or influence: “The shame was overwhelming. . . .I felt completely alone, unable to trust anyone,” she wrote about why she waited a year to say anything.

Other lessons can be gleaned. States must do away with statutes of limitations that prevent women from bringing criminal charges once they have overcome their fear of coming forward. Prosecutors should not assume that difficult cases cannot be proved to a jury. And survivors deserved to be listened to, with care and respect.

-The Washington Post

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Monday, 1 October 2018 17:54. Updated: Monday, 1 October 2018 17:56.