Andrea Constand exited the courtroom smiling after American actor Bill Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Her battle for justice was won, not just for her but for all of Cosby’s 60 alleged victims that have come forward with accusations.
Donning a white suit jacket and blue top Ms Constand looked relieved, if nothing else, as she stepped out into the spring weather. Famed lawyer Gloria Allred emphatically said at a news conference that she had “three words” for Bill Cosby: “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”
Ms Constand has been fighting for recourse since 2004 when Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was also the face for so many of his accusers because the statute of limitations had run out in their cases and because she had chosen to be named, a fact that many media outlets would not normally disclose in cases of sexual assault and rape.
The 45-year-old first met Cosby through her work as the director of operations for the women’s basketball team at local Temple University, where Cosby is also an alumnus. She had been a star athlete in her hometown of Toronto, playing at the university level and for the Canadian national team. She had also pursued a career of professional basketball in Europe for a time. She soon began attending dinner parties and private dinners at “The Cosby Show” actor’s home, often discussing the school’s basketball programme.
On one such occasion, Cosby gave her pills to get her to relax after which he molested her. Just a few months later, Ms Constand moved back to Ontario. However, she did file a police complaint and a case was opened in Pennsylvania in January 2005. Unfortunately for her, the case was dropped by a prosecutor who decided not to pursue in light of what he thought was scant evidence.
Ms Constand bravely kept pursuing justice in the face of her trauma; her mother said on the witness stand earlier this month that her daughter had not been herself in the months following the assault. She filed a civil suit and though Cosby settled it out of court for $3.4m, he had been required to be deposed in the case.
That deposition had been under a confidentiality agreement, which Ms Constand asked to be opened in 2015. It was and along with it the criminal case was re-opened since Cosby admitted in the civil suit deposition that he had penetrated Ms Constand. A slew of public disbelief and insults, being called a “con artist” by Cosby’s legal team, and having details of the sexual assault released were just some of the issues Ms Constand has likely had to endure the past three years.
She sat on the witness stand for days, detailing that evening 14 years ago. “I wanted it to stop. I couldn’t say anything. I was trying to get my hands to move, my legs to move and the message just wasn’t getting there. I was weak, I was limp and I couldn’t fight him off...“I was really humiliated. I was in shock. And I was really confused,” she said, maintaining her composure after a mistrial was declared last year when a jury could not come to a unanimous decision about Cosby’s claim that the sex was consensual.
Janice Dickinson, Heidi Thomas, Chelan Lasha, Janice Baker-Kinney and Lise-Lotte Lublin all testified in the trial against Cosby - all echoing Ms Constand’s story in different ways. But it was Ms Constand who has become a face for them and part of the larger #metoo and #TimesUp movement calling for an end to silence about sexual harassment and assault.