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Can Bill Cosby Court Ruling Silence Abuse Victims? Vera House Domestic Violence Experts Express Concerns, Support for Survivors

Bill Cosby
Montgomery County Planning Commission
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Will release of Bill Cosby from his prison sentence of sexual abuse have impacts on other abuse survivors and their healing?

Domestic Violence experts in Syracuse are worried the release of Bill Cosby from his sexual assault prison sentence might send other assault survivors into silence. Vera House Prevention-Education Co-Director George Kilpatrick says many who have suffered sexual or other abuse keep it inside.

“There are people right now listening to this conversation who have had trauma in their life and they’ve never told anyone. You know, something like this has the potential of silencing further. But what I want to say is, even in this tragic situation and circumstance, support is here for you no matter where you are on the journey.”

Often, even relatives or friends tell victims to remain silent, so they don’t upset the family or a career.

"How many stories have you heard of parents telling their children, 'don't say anything about Uncle Johnny,' right? People for whatever reasons aren't able to tell their truth, or they've been threatened with bodily harm if they came forward."

On the other hand, Kilpatrick notes prominent cases can encourage survivors to report abuse. Knowing others have shared their stories can make it safer to come forward. Kilpatrick also worries the Cosby case is another example of inequities in the legal system.

“Well the dangerous message about people with wealth is that, the system favors those who are wealthy because no one else in the situation that Cosby was in would be able to do this.”

Cosby was released from his prison sentence when a court agreed he was given a verbal non-prosecution agreement by a local prosecutor in Pennsylvania. Kirkpatrick adds this doesn’t mean he’s innocent of the charges, especially in light of claims by some 60 women who also say they were assaulted by the comedian.

"The biggest thing here is, there's been no accountability on the part of Bill Cosby, other than saying he did this (in court). What' she innocent of? He's not innocent of the crimes, but he's not even willing to be held accountable and apologize for the harms he caused. I think that's the biggest travesty."

Kilpatrick ultimately wants survivors of assault to know that support is available at Vera House whenever they’re ready to talk about their truth. That could be as public or private as they want, with counseling or help with a legal case.

Vera House offers a live support line 24/7 at 315-468-3260. There's also a live web chat and other information at VeraHouse.org.