In July 2015, 35 of Bill Cosby’s accusers spoke to New York Magazine about their allegations of being assaulted, drugged, and raped by the man who had built his reputation as “America’s Dad.” While multiple women had already come forward to the press, when photographed together, the magnitude of their accusations was shocking — together, as one described it at the time, they formed a “sorrowful sisterhood.” Over the last three years, those women have waited to see if Cosby would ever be brought to justice, and on Thursday, after a near three-week long trial and 14 hours of jury deliberations, he was finally found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.
While the statute of limitations had expired for many of the women who had accused Cosby of sexual assault, Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, reopened a criminal case against Cosby for a 2004 incident. Last year’s trial ended in a hung jury, and many feared that justice would not be served this time around — or ever. But much has changed since then, as the #MeToo movement picked up steam and several powerful men were taken down by sexual-assault allegations. Now, Cosby faces up to ten years in prison for each of his three convictions.
After the verdict, the Cut returned to the women who spoke out in 2015 about what it feels like to see justice served. (A few could not comment because of ongoing litigation with Cosby.) Some of them have been waiting decades to see this day, and they expressed tearful elation, relief, and solidarity with their fellow “sister survivors.”
Sunni Welles: “It’s a historic day.”
I’m a nanny, I was with my baby charge. She was taking a nap, so I turned on the news and I saw it and just immediately started crying. I couldn’t be more thrilled that the 62 of us survivors are vindicated.
I have PTSD and bipolar, and even though I can’t say his name without getting flashbacks, I watched everything I could on the trial because I had to know. Even though I’ve had a significant amount of flashbacks and terror dreams since the trial began, I fought through that. I’d be happy if he just got two to three years to be in an eight-by-ten cell. I hope he doesn’t leave prison. It’s hard for me to say that about another human being, but I know how significantly I was hurt by him doing what he did to me. He did it to me, and my mother was one of his agents. He knew our family, he was always very courteous to my mother, and they were friends. If he could do that to her daughter, he could do that to anyone. He’s a very ill and sick man and I hope he reflects on it as he sits in that little cell.
I’ll probably go out — I don’t drink, but I’m going to go out and have a beer and some sushi. It’s a historic day.
Lili Bernard: “I’m feeling, in a sense, reborn.”
I could see the whites of Cosby’s eyes when I heard the verdict — I was in the courtroom, seated just a few feet behind Andrea Costand. We were sobbing. We were astonished at the positive verdict. The legal system is no longer light years behind modern culture. These three guilty verdicts are an indication that society is now more enlightened about rape myths. My heart is full of gratitude for the prosecution, the six victims who testified, especially Andrea Constand, and the jury. I’m feeling, in a sense, reborn, that I can return to normalcy, my life with my six children, and my advocacy for other rape survivors. I’m hopeful that the judge will render a sentence which reflects the lasting damage and havoc that this man has wreaked upon the lives of dozens of women, over decades, with impunity.
Helen Hayes: “Put him in a woman’s prison, they’ll deal with him.”
It’s a strange day for me. I was just going to spend the weekend planting some flowers and thinking about my daughter’s suicide. It was two years ago that my daughter hung herself, so I was feeling sad about that. My phone is just broken up … it’s just hot: “he’s guilty, he’s guilty.” I was in Michael’s and I told a couple of people in Michael’s and they looked at me like, “well, who’s Cosby?” and I said, “don’t worry, Trump will be next.” I just wanted to cry for all the women. I’m just so happy for all of them, this might be their closure. It was a long hard road — I’m 83, reverse those numbers to 38, was when I had my encounter with Cosby. He’s younger than I am, he gets ten years, what is that? One month for all of us. I hope he gets 150 years and he just dies in jail. Put him in a woman’s prison, they’ll deal with him.
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