Cosby's Trial Shows Why So Many Rape Victims Refuse To Come Forward

by
Amna Shoaib
The hung jury in Bill Cosby's case is a reminder how hard it is to prosecute sexual assault allegations.

Here is what has happened.

More than 60 women came forward, alleging stand-up comedian Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them in "eerily similar ways."

Some of these incidents dated back decades, while others were more recent. Of all his alleged victims, only a former Temple University employee was able to pursue her case in  a court.

The verdict was to be handed down by a jury. This should have been simple, given that multiple women had come forward with testimonies of a painful experience. The jury knew that the alleged perpetrator had a pattern when it came to assault, a notion that almost all stories corroborated — and a pattern Cosby admitted to in previous testimony.

But Cosby’s trial on three counts of aggravated indecent assault ended in a mistrial, as after more than 50 hours of deliberation, the jury said they were "hopelessly deadlocked" on the charges.

This just goes to show how difficult it is to get sexual assaults prosecuted.

Experts admitted this was a classic case of "he said, she said," even with Cosby's admissions. Perhaps the jury was reluctant to convict "America's dad," who allegedly assaulted guest stars on his show. Or perhaps in their minds, what Cosby might have done was evil and unfair to his wife, but it was not assault. 

Sexual assaults don't just play out in dark alleyways and abandoned parks. Many people still think rape is only when the victim is attacked, usually brutally, by people they do not know. In fact, 70 percent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. 

There is still some hesitance to accept even family members, friends, or in this case, well-known celebrities, can also assault people.

The verdict of Cosby's case shows exactly why so many sexual assault survivors are reluctant to come forward. They are worried the world won't believe them, that they'd be ridiculed or worse, they will be blamed for the crime.

All of these things have happened to Cosby accusers. It's unfair and gross. 

Hollywood also had a hard time digesting this judgment.

Actress and producer Lena Dunham rightly saw this as the erasure of the experience of many survivors of assault.

Many celebrities responded by calling for a retrial.

Some wonder how an unbiased jury will ever be found.

Others, however, saw racial motivations in the trial.

While one may lament the decision of the jury now, they should remember this was not a one-off incident and the justice system will not transform until society does.

This tweet perfectly summed up the times we are living in now.

"So as long as we have a public that remains largely misinformed about sexual assault, it's difficult to have a jury pool that prosecutors feel confident they can work with for most sexual assault cases," Kristen Houser, executive director at AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women, who spent 25 years advocating on behalf of sexual assault victims, told Mic.

"Most cases are committed between people who already know one another. It's happening within families, within social circles, and it is not a crime that normally has any kind of gratuitous violence. Weapons aren't usually involved. There aren't additional injuries aside from the assault."

There are 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, and even that number may be underreported given that most incidents go unreported.

In fact, one in six women in the U.S. has been a victim of attempted or completed rape and there's one sexual assault every 98 seconds in the country, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Out of every 1,000 sexual assault cases, only seven lead to criminal convictions.

Read More: Mistrial Declared In Cosby Sex Assault Case
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