Bill Cosby has finally been charged with aggravated assault — a first-degree felony — and the judge set his bail to $1 million. This is for the 2004 incident with Temple University employee Andrea Constand, even though over 50 women have spoken out about being assaulted by the comedian as well. Because the statute of limitations has expired for nearly all of these women, Constand's case is different because Pennsylvania law grants a 12-year statute of limitations in sex crime cases. Constand's strength to speak up, Pennsylvania's law timeline, and the re-opening of the investigation due to the drugs that Cosby gave Constand (and his admitting to giving other women quaaludes) have been the three major factors in making this happen. District Attorney Kevin Steele commented,
"That [Cosby's admission that he'd given quaaludes to other women in the past] was a significant fact in making a determination. The detectives followed the evidence [from there]."
Even though other women were not fated to have their cases escalate to the same degree, Constand's vocalization of her experience created a domino effect. While the assault occurred in 2004, she spoke out about it in 2005 — but no one readily believed her. However, it did inspire the other women to speak up about the same terrifying experiences they went through. Had these women not come out with their stories, this case might have never been reopened and Cosby would be getting away with what he did or, even worse, continuing down the same dark path of sexually abusing women.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. So why aren't people reporting rape? Sometimes it can be attributed to a feeling that nothing will come of it or flat-out fear. Whatever the reasoning may be, the Cosby situation is a great opportunity for people to understand the influence and inspiring consequences that speaking up can catapult. Although it's worth noting that it took many women speaking up about their experience in order for them to be heard and validated.
While more news rolls out about Cosby's case, we can safely say that it is a great vindication for all of those women — even if he isn't sentenced — because it speaks to how important it is to tell the truth. People were moved when New York Magazine profiled the 35 women who stood up and shared their stories with the world — so much so, that the site went down for a bit due to the high traffic. The power of speaking up helps others going through a similar situation feel like they are being heard, too. It eliminates the "it only happens to me" mentality and opens up doors for people to connect and share their experiences as a growing, learning, and justice-serving moment. Even though these women endured a traumatic series of events, their stories are proof that the "culture of silence and shame" must be broken in order to make progress.