ENOLA-The District attorney’s office in Montgomery County charged Bill Cosby with one felony charge of aggravated indecent assault today stemming from a January 2004 incident in which the victim said Cosby drugged and assaulted her.
The criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault cases, which in Pennsylvania is 12 years, was set to expire in January 2016.
The criminal investigation into Cosby was reopened in July after new evidence was learned, according to Montgomery County prosecutor Kevin Steele.
These developments highlight several important facts about sexual assault:
- Delayed disclosures of sexual violence are normal and common. Many people who have been sexually violated wait months or years before discussing what was done to them with anyone, let alone making a formal report to authorities. Thus, it is in the best interest of public safety to eliminate criminal statutes of limitations in sexual assault cases. Prosecutors will always retain discretion regarding whether or not to press charges based on evidence, but today as the public becomes more informed about sexual assault and as actions and interactions are preserved through technology, the ability to build a strong case through evidence many years old can occur more often.
- People we know and trust commit sexual violence. The majority of sexual violence is committed by people survivors know and trust. People who commit acts of sexual violence sometimes abuse celebrity status and the illusion of trust that comes with it. Many have trouble believing that Cosby — a longtime beloved comedian whose work made Black families more visible on mainstream television — could commit sexual violence. In reality, no one is “all good” or “all bad.” People who are publicly admired can and do commit sexual violence. Celebrities commit sexual violence. People who have done good work for their communities commit sexual violence.
- People who commit sexual violence use intoxicants strategically. Those who commit acts of sexual violence know that someone who is intoxicated will have less control of their body and surroundings, sometimes even losing consciousness, which makes consent impossible. Additionally, a person who is intoxicated will likely have gaps in or absence of memory, which may make it more difficult to accurately report what happened to them.
- Survivors likely are telling the truth. Rape is the most underreported crime: 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police. People do not report sexual assault for a variety of complicated reasons, and those who do come forward often face scrutiny and are met with disbelief — even more so when the person who committed sexual violence is a person of influence. This happens despite the fact that the false reporting of rape is uncommon.
- Prevention is possible, and is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone has a role to play to create and promote safe environments. We can all intervene to stop troubling behavior, promote healthy and respectful attitudes and relationships, and believe survivors and assist them in finding resources.
- It is never too late to get help. Rape crisis centers throughout Pennsylvania and across the country provide support for victims of sexual assault, as well as to impacted family members, regardless of how long ago the sexual violence occurred.
Founded in 1975, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape advocates for the rights and needs of sexual assault victims and works to end sexual violence. PCAR partners with a network of rape crisis programs to bring help, hope and healing around issues of sexual violence to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To learn more, go to pcar.org.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center leads the U.S. in providing professional support to local and state anti-sexual violence organizations. NSVRC collaborates with partners nationwide to create research-based resources that focus on how to prevent and respond to sexual violence. The organization has the nation’s largest library of resources on sexual violence and prevention. Find NSVRC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest.