Old and blind, Bill Cosby was freed from prison on a technicality. Part of me is happy | Opinion

I’m so conflicted.

I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

Part of me is secretly happy that Bill Cosby is out of prison. He’s so old and blind now. I highly doubt he will bother any more women ever again. I hated the thought of him being locked up like that.

But then there’s the other part of me that’s shocked and angry.

I believe women. I believe his accusers. I believe Andrea Constand. I can’t imagine what she must be going through right now. She’s probably kicking herself for believing she ever had a real shot getting justice with our flawed legal system.

Yes, she was able to testify in court and get a jury to believe her allegations. Other women also got to share what Cosby did to them. I met some of them. Talked to them. Seeing him sentenced back in 2018 had to have been therapeutic.

But in the end, Cosby still won out. Freed over a technicality.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court‘s ruling Wednesday that District Attorney Kevin Steele had to abide by his predecessor’s handshake agreement not to charge Cosby changed the game for him.

And just like that, a guilty man has gone free.

Never forget that Cosby hasn’t been exonerated. He’s not some innocent the system picked on just because he expressed interest in buying NBC. A jury convicted him of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and assaulting Constand at his home in 2004. Dozens more have made similar allegations.

This ruling is a huge setback for the #MeToo movement.

It’s also a setback for sexual abuse survivors everywhere who all too often put their trust and faith in a system that doesn’t always come through for them. They are going to look at this as another glaring example of why so many sex abuse survivors don’t bother coming forward, especially when their allegations involve a wealthy, famous predator.

“People aren’t going to get in the weeds in that way,” said Monique Howard, a sexual violence advocate and public health strategist. “All they’re going to think is that it was overturned. It’s the women that suffer.”

This is going to have a chilling effect on sexual assault survivors. Women will hesitate even longer before reporting sexual abuse cases. All because Cosby had the means to have good lawyers bring his appeal before the Supreme Court.

It’s an awful lot to digest.

Back in 2018, I wrote a column calling Cosby’s sentencing both a triumph and a tragedy. I wrote about how much I admired all he had done for the culture with “The Cosby Show” and the millions he gave to historically Black colleges and universities.

On the other hand, I couldn’t defend a man who had given drugs to Constand that left her defenseless to his sexual advances. That was a sleazy and low-down thing to do.

Still, I hated seeing Uncle Bill in his shirt sleeves with his hands cuffed being taken off to prison. It was difficult for me to witness a man whom I had grown up admiring fall so far from grace.

Whenever I found myself wondering what Cosby’s life was like in prison and worrying about his health, I had to force myself to not think of him and instead to focus on Constand and his other victims.

Common sense and reasoning are wrestling with my heartstrings. I felt kind of the same way when the O.J. Simpson verdict went down.

Cosby is home now. A part of me smiled at the sight of him in that white Central High School T-shirt at the news conference outside his home. A Black man had beaten a system that too often has left African Americans with a knee on their throats.

But just as I’m Black, I’m also a woman. Sisterhood is strong. I know his alleged victims are beside themselves with outrage. I feel for them, too.

As I said, my emotions are all over the place.

Jenice Armstrong is a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist.

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