Between Cosby's First and Second Trials, This Country Made Big Progress on Sexual Assault

Since Bill Cosby's first trial ended with a hung jury last June, this country has received a graduate-level course on the issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault, with millions of women coming forward to say #MeToo. While jurors were being selected for the retrial, The New York Times pointed out that all potential jurors but one — 119 out of 120 — had heard of the #MeToo movement, making this the first high-profile sexual assault trial in the era of heightened awareness of sexual violence. That jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.So what effect has the #MeToo movement had on trials like this and on our overall culture?The graphic allegations against high-powered men such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O'Reilly and Kevin Spacey are helping shift public perception of sexual assault to that of a perpetrator exerting power and control rather than a victim having too much to drink or dressing inappropriately. People are realizing that the rape myth is no longer a defense — she didn't ask for it, she didn't want it and she didn't invite it. We as a society are now learning that women are not responsible to not get raped; rather, rapists are responsible not to rape.While we are beginning to have the difficult conversations and more women are coming forward out of the shadows, there's still progress to be made. The women who testified against Cosby sat in a witness box and were publicly shamed by Cosby's attorney. They were called pathological liars and con artists, and past drug use was questioned as if they were the perpetrators of these crimes rather than the victims. According to The Associated Press, more than a dozen inconsistencies in Andrea Constand's story were pointed out and highlighted as falsehoods, but at Genesis Women's Shelter, we know that gaps in timelines and inconsistencies can actually be symptoms of trauma.To continue to move the needle and make a real societal shift, there are simple steps everyone can take to end violence against women. It starts with believing her instead of blaming her; reinforce that what has happened is not her fault, and that everybody deserves to feel safe. By encouraging her to begin to think about safety planning, you can help her identify the next steps that feel right for her. Remember, you don't have to be the expert; oftentimes, just helping her find an appropriate agency for support is a huge step.The court of public opinion has been heard loudly and clearly, and the jury has come back with a united zero-tolerance policy. Cosby is no longer "America's Dad," because America's fathers do not perpetrate premeditated, drug-facilitated sexual assault. Only when we all come together and stand united in saying, "I believe you" will true change take place, and we hope you will stand up and say #MeToo in response.Jan Langbein is chief executive of Genesis Women's Shelter. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.What's your view?Got an opinion about this issue? Send a letter to the editor, and you just might get published.  Continue reading...

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