Comedian Bill Cosby could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison this week for drugging and sexually assaulting basketball player Andrea Constand in 2004. Cosby was convicted earlier this year of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Constand, for which the sentencing process will start on Monday in a courtroom outside Philadelphia.
But before he was convicted in April, Cosby’s first trial in 2017 ended with a hung jury. It wasn’t until earlier this year that Judge Steven O’Neill, who oversaw both trials allowed five more Cosby accusers to tell their stories in court.
“[#MeToo] may have influenced the judge’s willingness to allow more witnesses,” Aviva Orenstein, a law professor at Indiana University told Reuters. Constand filed a lawsuit against Cosby for the abuse in 2005, but the case did not move forward until 11 years later in 2016, after more than 40 other women spoke out with their own allegations of sexual abuse by Cosby.
Some are now calling Cosby’s conviction a “milestone” for #MeToo because men have long walked away from sexual abuse allegations with impunity, though allegations against the comedian predated the movement.
Still, others aren’t convinced that carceral feminism—defined by activist Angela Davis in her 2016 book Freedom is a Constant Struggle as “criminalization and incarceration for gender violence”—will solve the fundamental problem of sexual abuse.
According to statistics from RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country, 321,500 Americans aged 12 and older are sexually assaulted or raped each year.
“Has the current approach ended rape and murder?” feminist organizer Mariame Kaba asked during a conversation with the Next System Project. “Worse than that it is causing inordinate additional harm. The logics of policing and prisons are not actually addressing the systemic causes and roots of violence,” Kaba added. According to RAINN, the population reporting the second-highest rate of rape and assault is prisoners, with 80,600 people victimized each year while incarcerated.
For some, Cosby’s conviction are a sign that people are more willing to listen to the stories of sexual abuse victims and survivors. Take, for example, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, whose silence dates back to the height of Cosby’s power and whose allegation of sexual abuse against Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh came after tens of thousands of women have spoke up for themselves.
“I think for a lot of survivors, they can see themselves in this story,” Rebecca O’Connor, the vice president of public policy at RAINN, told Reuters.
That Cosby’s sentencing coming is as the same week as Ford’s testimony before the Senate is certainly a coincidence. But like the #MeToo Movement, it’s difficult to ignore.