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Bill Cosby’s Felony Rape Charge: What Will Society Learn?
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Bill Cosby Mugshot

Bill Cosby Mugshot

Mr. Cosby’s remaining supporters are still probably hoping the famous actor/comedian (best known for “The Cosby Show” and “I Spy”) can prove he’s innocent of the felony sexual assault charge now pending against him in Pennsylvania. They may also be expecting him to clearly explain why dozens of women have now publicly alleged that he “drugged” and sexually assaulted them over the course of many decades.

Unfortunately, so many accusers have now stepped forward with rather convincing rape allegations that it may take a very long time to sort through all of the chaos in Bill Cosby’s life.

  
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Why We May All Have Something to Gain or Lose in Regards to This Case

While Mr. Cosby’s legal team may secretly think they have an uphill battle in this case, society may also have quite a bit on the line. After all, many women still hesitate to report they’ve been raped because they know they may be implicitly blamed for “causing” the rape or not doing enough to stop it. Likewise, women remain very concerned about how law enforcement officers may treat them as rape survivors. Finally, America’s large number of untested rape kits  make a painfully negative statement that our society just don’t take the crime of rape very seriously.

As we review the exact nature of the charges now pending against Bill Cosby and the facts surrounding his case, it’s important to reflect on how the crime of rape continues to damage everyone. Researchers have even asserted that rape is actually more financially costly to all taxpayers than murder.

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What the Pennsylvania Complaint Says Bill Cosby Did

Mr. Cosby has been charged with indecent assault, a first-degree felony. It’s based on the report Andrea Constand’s filed with the police in January of 2005 — regarding a 2004 incident she said happened at Mr. Cosby’s home.



Ms. Constand has consistently stated that she was never interested in a romantic relationship with Bill Cosby because she just thought of him as “a mentor.” In fact, she was even in a “committed relationship with a woman” at the time Cosby allegedly gave her drugs and sexually violated her. The two first met due to Mr. Cosby being an alum of Temple University where Ms. Constand “was the director of operation for the women’s basketball team.”

After reporting the 2004 rape, Ms. Constand decided to bring a civil lawsuit against Mr. Cosby. In support of her allegations, many other women stepped forward to testify about their own (alleged) abuse at the hands of Mr. Cosby. Once the actor realized that so many women were making similar allegations, he settled the civil suit with Ms. Constand out of court.

What the Original Prosecutor Has Said About the 2004 Case

According to Bruce Castor who was the prosecutor back when Ms. Constand originally brought her charges, he wished there had been more evidence available to justify an arrest of Mr. Cosby. During one CNN interview, Castor said he thought Ms. Constand was telling the truth and that [Cosby] had done something “inappropriate.” He then added, “I thought he [Cosby] was lying and . . . evasive.”

Fortunately, during the pendency of Ms. Constand’s civil lawsuit, Mr. Cosby was subjected to a deposition in which he acknowledged obtaining drugs while planning to engage in his extra-marital affairs. That testimony was just released last summer and is now a key part of the evidence being referenced by the new prosecutor.

Hannibal Buress Brought New Attention to the Many Past Cosby Allegations

Back in late 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress stated during a live comedy performance (later broadcast over social media) that Bill Cosby needed to quit “talking down” to others since he rapes women.

Shortly thereafter, a vast number of women began coming forward, saying they no longer felt afraid and believed that their claims of sexual assault (and other types of abuse) against Mr. Cosby might finally be taken seriously. As they did so, it became clear that many of these women knew that due to various state statutes of limitations, they could not seek financial damages against the comedian. Instead, they just wanted to be heard, to remind people how devastating rape can be, and to see justice done.

Here’s some data that can help all of us relate better to the devastation rape often causes.

Statistics Addressing Individual and Societal Losses Due to Rape

  • Researchers have recently estimated that each rape costs the survivor and society about $151, 423. In a country where sincere compassion for others often appears to be waning, perhaps that financial cost may help stimulate greater interest in preventing rape. Furthermore, the annual cost of rape in America is roughly $127 billion dollars – a hefty sum of money most survivors and taxpayers would surely rather see spent on preventive measures and other societal needs. We clearly need to crack down harder on the perpetrators;
  • It’s now estimated that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men “will experience an attempted or completed rape” during their lives;
  • Nine (9) out of every ten (10) rape survivors are women;
  • Ninety-nine percent (99%) of female and eighty-five percent (85%) of male survivors were raped by a male;
  • “Sexual abuse interferes with women’s ability to work (Lyon, 2002). Fifty percent of sexual violence victims had to . . . leave their jobs in the year following their assaults due to the severity of their reactions;”
  • “In 2008, violence and abuse constituted up to 37.5% of total health care costs, or up to $750 billion (Dolezal, McCollum, & Callahan, 2009).” Something needs to change now and new legislation is clearly needed.

We all need to bear these shocking statistics in mind as we hear the many updates on the current charges being brought against Mr. Cosby – and whenever we hear about a new rape case being reported. While it’s possible for a false report to be filed, the fact remains that most rapists are never charged nor caught and a great many of them are repeat offenders.

Since our justice system requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt – and rape is a crime that requires sufficient evidence that a crime was committed prior to an arrest and conviction, there are sufficient safeguards in place to protect most accused perpetrators. Nevertheless, we must stay focused on all of the damages being suffered by rape survivors.

Stephanie Trilling, Manager of Community Awareness and Prevention Services (CAPS) of the Boston Rape Crisis Center, says, “It can be difficult to pin down the exact cost of recovery for every rape survivor. However, it would be far more efficient to spend more on rape prevention than what is currently being spent by the government to treat rape survivors and recidivism among perpetrators.”

How Could Cosby or “America’s Dad” Ever Do This Type of Thing?

Mr. Cosby still believes he was long revered by nearly everyone in this country due to his work on various TV shows. However, many of us who didn’t grow up in families with parents with college degrees found The Cosby Show’s Huxtable household (with a doctor and lawyer as parents) to be pure fantasy and never truly related to it.

Furthermore, the way Mr. Cosby went about obtaining his college and graduate degrees left many people wondering about his character and credibility – especially in light of his high school academic record. In fact, Bill Cosby still likes to claim that all of his accusers are just trying to exploit his wealth and fame. Well, a strong argument can be made that he alone is the one who has consistently done that more than anyone else.

Celebrity downfalls have become rather common. In addition to America’s many well-known cases, England has certainly seen its share of revered celebrities fall from grace. Just read up on the Jerry Saville scandal. Unfortunately, some very disturbed people are often champion self-promoters while seeking fame and fortune.

We Need to Change Our Response to Rape Allegations While Discussing the Cosby Case

America needs to stop tolerating grossly insensitive, cruel, and even perverse comments about rape by politicians, celebrities and others. While we start trying to accord greater respect to all who report rape allegations, we must also do more to make sure that all convicted perpetrators are forced to actually serve time behind bars.

What Type of Punishment Can Mr. Cosby Receive if Convicted in the Constand Case?

Under Pennsylvania law, a person convicted of aggravated indecent assault can be sent to prison for five to 10 years and be forced to pay a fine of $25,000. If Mr. Cosby is found guilty, hopefully the court will not give him special treatment due to his age, medical conditions or other extraneous matters. Those who are guilty of this crime never give a second thought to the damage they are inflicting upon others – and they shouldn’t receive special consideration if they manage to elude conviction for an extended period of time.

Should Mr. Cosby manage to prevail in the Constand case – he will still have to answer to the various lawsuits filed by other women who claim he defamed them by denying their accusations.

Elizabeth Smith, J.D., M.A., is a freelance writer who has written about general business, legal, medical, and consumer topics for over twenty years. She has also served as the author and co-author of two professional legal texts.



 

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