#MeToo advocates see Cosby conviction as validation

Before #MeToo became a global movement, a jury failed to return a verdict in Bill Cosby's first trial on sexual assault charges. Now, #MeToo advocates say his conviction will embolden other victims to seek justice. 

Mark Makes/Reuters
Bill Cosby's accuser Andrea Constand (c.) walks out of the courtroom after a guilty verdict was delivered in the sexual assault retrial of Mr. Cosby at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., on April 26.

Women campaigning against sexual assault and harassment hailed Bill Cosby's conviction as a validation of the #MeToo movement and an emboldening signal to other victims unsure if they should come forward to seek justice.

"It takes a lot of courage to do that, but this will encourage other women who now see that having a powerful legal team and being a celebrity doesn't buy you a pass," said Debra Katz, a Washington attorney specializing in sexual-harassment law.

Mr. Cosby, for decades one of America's most beloved comedians, was convicted on Thursday of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual, and his lawyers attacked Ms. Constand as a liar and a "con artist" who framed him to get rich.

This was Cosby's second trial on the sexual-assault charges. The first ended with a hung jury 10 months ago, before #MeToo became a global movement.

In the time since Cosby's first trial, sexual-misconduct allegations have toppled countless influential men in entertainment, politics, the media, and other sectors. Cosby's conviction came in the first big celebrity trial since the #MeToo movement exploded and gave abused women a collective voice.

In the pre-#MeToo era, said Ms. Katz, women who reported rape and harassment "were reflexively disbelieved and smeared, particularly when they raised allegations against celebrities and powerful men."

"As a result of the courage of millions of women who spoke out ... our society has changed," she said. "In effect, this jury agreed that Time's Up."

Sandra Park, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project, said the #MeToo movement had helped educate the public about the pervasiveness of sexual assault and the factors that prompt some victims to delay coming forward for long periods of time.

"The tactic of villainizing the victim has traditionally worked – so you would look for the perfect case that was reported right away," Ms. Park said. "#MeToo has showed that there's a wide range of sexual-assault cases that don't fit in a neat box."

Constand, a former Temple women's basketball administrator, said Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called "your friends" and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no.

Although only Constand's case went to trial, more than 60 other women came forward over the past few years to accuse Cosby of drugging and molesting them over five decades. Their accusations against a well-known superstar were a precursor to #MeToo.

"One of the big lessons we've been learning over last six months is that people we admire, people we feel we know well, can also do bad things," said Fatima Goss-Graves, president of the National Women's Law Center.

Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby's accusers, evoked the movement in remarks on the courthouse steps in Norristown, Pa., after the verdict was delivered.

"The #MeToo movement has arrived and is well and is living in Montgomery County, throughout this nation and throughout this world," Ms. Allred said.

For some women, news of the verdict was electrifying.

"I did my happy dance," said Danielle Campoamor, a New York-based writer and editor who says she was sexually assaulted by a co-worker five years ago.

But Ms. Campoamor, in an email, said her elation was tempered by memories of her own experience, when she had to wait a year for a rape kit to be processed and then was told there wasn't enough evidence to proceed.

"So when a man in a position of power, a man like Bill Cosby, is held accountable for the trauma he inflicted on his victims, I feel hope," Campoamor wrote. "But it isn't 'mission accomplished.' There is still work to be done, and we must do that work until these convictions are no longer the exception to the rule, but the rule itself."

The Cosby verdict is likely to energize efforts to expand and strengthen #MeToo. Several leading feminist groups have formed an Enough is Enough coalition, and they met this week to advocate for legislation to address sexual assault and harassment and to find new ways to support women who have experienced such abuse.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, as Constand has done.

This article was reported by The Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to #MeToo advocates see Cosby conviction as validation
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today