Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and James Franco. When each of these Hollywood giants were accused of sexual assault, it shocked the American public, leading to the emergence of the #MeToo movement. While sexual harassment in the entertainment industry has been exposed recently, it isn’t new. Unfortunately, the industry has a history of it.
Once known as “America’s favorite Dad,” Bill Cosby has been the target of over 60 allegations of sexual assault, according to the New York Times. These allegations date back to when he starred in the “The Cosby Show” as the beloved Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
After over 60 allegations of sexual assault and multiple trials that often resulted in million dollar bails, Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison on September 25 2018, after declared guilty of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, who was a former employee of Temple University, when she met Cosby.
The Constand case isn’t a recent one. According to CNN, Constand claims that Cosby drugged and assaulted her at his home in Philadelphia in 2004. In 2005, Constand filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby, which was resolved with a settlement of approximately 3 million dollars. The case reopened when a judge released parts of Cosby’s testimony from the 2005 case, leading to a trial in 2018 in Pennsylvania.
During the trial in April of 2018, an effective form of evidence was used. According to the New York Times, “The judge allowed five women to testify that Mr. Cosby assaulted them in ways similar to how Ms. Constand says she was attacked.”
At a larger level, this makes a statement about the importance of sexual assault survivors coming forward.
While the story of Cosby’s trials and allegations isn’t new, its intersection with the #MeToo movement proves that individuals have the ability to speak out against sexual predators and spark conversations on social change regardless of the predator’s social status.
However, this will only be possible if society is educated on the importance of telling their story as soon as possible after the assault occurs. In addition to eliminating the social stigma surrounding sexual assault, coming out immediately after the incident can provide substantial evidence.
Case after case has proven that having a “rape kit,” or getting a sexual assault forensic exam done, can provide DNA based evidence to support an individual’s allegations in a court case. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, DNA evidence significantly increases chances of prosecution, as well as prevents future sexual assaults.
RAINN states, “Even if the perpetrator is not prosecuted, their DNA may be added to the national database, making it easier to connect the perpetrator to a future crime.” Therefore, coming forward doesn’t just lead a survivor to getting justice, but also sets the norm to prevent future crimes of this manner.
The Cosby case in particular has shown that women, when they come together, have the ability to speak out and seek justice despite differences in social class and status. While the result of this trial is certainly a victory, many argue that it is one too late.
What is now known as a “decade-long-saga,” should not have been so. Cosby should not have had the ability to pay $3.38 (according to the New York Times) million civil settlement, and escape a court case in 2006. The legal system should not allow this.
It is nothing short of silencing the victim. While the accuser must agree to accept the settlement, this system creates a precedent, that sexual predators are able to escape the consequences of their actions, with the help of money.
We’ve certainly made progress with the #MeToo movement. However, we have a long way to go.