SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio nonprofit and a local law professor fear the release of Bill Cosby on Wednesday could deter rape survivors from seeking help.
Lea Rosenauer, president and CEO of Girls Inc. San Antonio -- which empowers girls to be bold and use their voices -- said she is beyond disappointed in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to release Cosby.
“This continues to tell girls and women not to tell the truth, not to come forward,” Rosenauer said. “That is just a disservice to all victims in our community and around the country.”
Cosby was serving two of his three 10-year sentences for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman. More than 60 other women also came forward with accusations.
“It took so much courage to tell their story, to say, ‘This man, this person violated me.’ That is not easy to do,” Rosenauer said.
She said the decision comes as a slap in the face for Cosby’s survivors and other sexual assault survivors.
“At the end of the day, the message that is being delivered to girls and women is to be quiet because what you say doesn’t matter, and that is unfortunate,” Rosenauer said.
Jiletta Kubena, a criminology and criminal justice professor, agrees and says she was shocked but not surprised after reviewing what threw the case out.
“The court is not saying he did not sexually assault these women,” Kubena said. “What the court is saying is that it was a procedural issue, and because of that and his due process being violated, then they have to let him go.”
Kubena said the only binding document the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had to go off was a press release.
“This was not a plea deal. It was just, ‘We are not going to file charges.’ And everything hinged on that statement because, once that statement was made, Bill Cosby could not invoke the 5th (Amendment) anymore in Pennsylvania.
When the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office released the press release in 2005, Cosby had a civil case in the works brought forward by one of his accusers.
“During the civil proceedings, he had to testify or give statements,” Kubena said. “Cosby was really acting under the impression he was never going to be criminally charged because he never invoked his 5th Amendment right. Essentially that 5th Amendment goes away if there is no chance that you are ever going to be criminally charged or prosecuted.”
In Pennsylvania, that violation tanked everything else that has been brought against Cosby.
Both Rosenauer and Kubena believe this decision is bad news for victims of sexual assault, especially since only 20% of rape survivors speak out. They fear that percentage will now decrease.
“Research tells us that girls and women who have been victimized -- sexual harassment, sexual assault, are a greater propensity for PTSD, depression, and suicide,” Rosenauer said.
Despite the court’s decision, they encourage all victims of sexual assault to stay strong and be bold.
“Please, please keep telling your story and finding that ally because they are out there -- Girls Inc. included,” said Rosenauer.
Kubena says other prosecutors in Pennsylvania could bring more cases against Cosby if more witnesses come forward. At this point, however, it will be a challenge to get a conviction. She said it could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, Kubena is encouraging any victim of sexual assault to use the Rape Crisis Center’s resources, including their hotline: 210-349-7273.