Bill Cosby was finally sentenced during the Senate investigation into Brett Kavanaugh’s history of alleged abuse
by Michael O’Brien
Last Wednesday, a comedian and actor who had once been the embodiment of family values, trust, and laughter for millions of Americans across the country was sentenced to a prison sentence of three to ten years. 14 years ago, Bill Cosby, now 81, drugged and assaulted Andrea Constand in his home. For Mrs. Constand, and all other survivors of sexual assault, this conviction was a long time coming. While Constand’s case was the only one to withstand the statute of limitations in court, it is suspected by many that Cosby was a serial predator, drugging and assaulting multiple women all across his long running career. Now, Cosby must acclimate to his new home, a state correctional institution in Phoenix, the end of a dark chapter in American History. But as one door closes, another opens, and as Cosby heads to prison, we are reminded that the specter of sexual assault is all around us, transcending race, class, and power.
While Cosby’s conviction will certainly be celebrated, it is shadowed by equally sinister accusations elsewhere in American society. Cosby used his stardom and influence to prey on unsuspecting women, and in the wake of the #MeToo era much needed light has been shined on the uglier side of the entertainment industry, but with this said, even a few years ago it would be hard to believe that the same questions asked about Cosby’s predatory actions would be asked of a candidate for the highest court in the country.
While Cosby faced his prosecutors with an overly confident, self-assured smirk, Supreme Court candidate Brett M. Kavanaugh answered to his accusations with the rage of a man who had never been told he couldn’t have what he wanted. Catherine Blasey Ford, now a doctor of psychology at Stanford University, described in harrowing detail an altercation she had with Kavanaugh when she was 15 in which 17 year old Kavanaugh drunkenly forced himself onto Ford alongside his friend Mark Judge. Fords account of the event is vividly detailed, with the doctor tearing up at the traumatizing memory. However, Ford managed to keep her composure, no small feat when attempting to recount a horrific event in front of a committee of mostly men. Despite Fords account, Kavanaugh remained indignant, he smeared the entire exercise as nothing more than a well calculated attempt to ruin his career, he did not speak on Fords account, instead opting to accuse senate Democrats of character assassination (side note: if a Supreme Court nominee believes full heartedly that a political party is attempting to smear him, what does that say about his ability to be a non-partisan judge of the Constitution?). His defense was flimsy, and barely spoke of Ford or the events that allegedly occurred.
Despite all of this, committee Republicans were wary of stepping out of line, with some senators, specifically Lindsey Graham, calling the hearings and by extension the accusations “the biggest political sham in American history”. It would eventually be announced that Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, suspected to be the deciding vote, would remain in Kavanaugh’s corner, and bring the confirmation to the Senate; however, after an emotional confrontation with sexual assault survivors after the hearing, it is revealed that the vote would be delayed for a week, pending an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh’s background. No matter the results of this investigation, the fact that one need be conducted at all will undoubtedly cast a dark cloud on the candidate’s nomination, even if such an investigation isn’t a deal-breaker these days.
For sexual assault survivors, Ford’s testimony was a symbol of strength, composure, and the will to fight for justice against an adversary which has thwarted endless numbers of assault accusations before: belief. For predators like Bill Cosby, and those accused of similar actions, belief is both a sword and a shield; allowing onlookers to cast doubt on a survivor’s account of events, and giving the accused credibility through their character rather than tangible evidence. For Cosby, the idea that “America’s Dad” could be a predator was too much for many people to bear, and as such, some chose to disbelieve it in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Kavanaugh decided to take the offensive, opting to question the motives of his accusers, allowing him to cast doubt on the charges. While the conviction of Cosby sent a message to the world that the shield of “reasonable doubt” is getting thinner and thinner, the hearings of Brett Kavanaugh serve as a stark reminder that for the thousands and millions of sexual assault survivors, belief in their stories remains as the largest hurdle on the road to justice.