There is no such thing as “justice” for being penetrated against your will.
A jury found actor and comedian Bill Cosby guilty yesterday of drugging and sexually assaulting a Pennsylvania woman 14 years ago. And predictably, the conversation around the verdict has focused on the same thing as Cosby’s own defense: the credibility of the victim.
I have only two things to say to this. First, thank god for those jurors. And second, I don’t care if he did it.
I’m not supposed to admit that. I’m supposed to wax poetic about the importance of due process and the right to being believed innocent until proven guilty. I’m supposed to allow thousands of women to be victimized to avoid wrongfully convicting even one man; I’m supposed to be OK with only an estimated 6 percent of rapists ever spending a day in jail.
I’m not willing to do that anymore.
The question was never whether Cosby did it. We know he used quaaludes to drug multiple women before sexually assaulting them because he admitted it. The question was whether dozens of women mattered as much as one powerful man.
I wrote about the Cosby case in 2015 when so many women had spoken out against him that people were finally forced to consider that perhaps the allegations were true.
“No one leapt to tell that first woman that they believed her experience; it took 35 women before the public was willing to even consider that their favorite TV dad was a serial rapist. Most women do not have 34 others standing in the wings, and most women have every reason to expect that reporting their rape will lead to nothing but invalidation, re-victimization, and even humiliation for them and little to no consequences for their rapist,” I wrote for Ravishly.
There may be power in numbers, but there was still no swift road to justice for those women. Even after Cosby admitted to drugging women and sexually assaulting them, he still continued to reap the benefits of misogyny. Statutes of limitations had long since run out and a prior case against him resulted in a hung jury. This case was his last chance to be found guilty (civil cases are also pending).
So forgive me if I don’t spend my time poring over the details of the victim’s account, searching for inconsistencies. Excuse me if I ignore her college advisor’s testimony that she once said she could get rich accusing a powerful man of sexual assault. Because this case isn’t about one woman and one man: This case is about a serial sexual abuser who used his power to victimize, silence and discredit women. Women. Plural.
And yesterday that man got what he deserved.
Cosby’s career is over and he’s facing up to three 10-year sentences for his crimes. But even more importantly, he was found guilty in a court of law. And that shows sexual abuse survivors that their abusers can be punished no matter who they are or how powerful they might be.
But make no mistake — Cosby’s victims will never see justice. There is no such thing as “justice” for being penetrated against your will. There is no amount of vengeance that will make you whole or take away the trauma that was inflicted on you. But the only thing worse than being violated is being gaslit and invalidated, and Cosby’s days of doing that are over.
These women are the lucky few. They will see their abuser punished for what he did; if not to them, at least for the same crime. Most of us have to live our lives knowing we’ve been traumatized and assaulted, and the perpetrators got off scot-free.
There has been a collective hand-wringing about what the #MeToo movement means for men. Some people have even equated it to a modern-day witch hunt. If you’ve long since believed you were entitled to women’s bodies, perhaps “justice” feels like a witch hunt.
But for the rest of us, justice feels like the beginning — the very beginning — of equality.