Bill Cosby plans to return to work.
That's what his spokesman said last week as the disgraced actor and comedian left the prison where he'd served nearly three years for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a woman he had mentored.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction after they ruled prosecutors violated Cosby’s rights when they walked back on an apparent agreement not to charge him.
Lise-Lotte Lublin, a teacher in Las Vegas, is one of the more than 50 other women who accused Cosby of sexual assault. She testified at his trial.
She says she found out about his release while she was teaching her students.
“I was blown away,” she recalls. “There was nothing to prepare me for this.”
Lublin believes the decision to let Cosby out of prison will have a chilling impact on other survivors' willingness to come forward to police, rehash their trauma and testify against alleged abusers — especially if it’s against powerful and wealthy celebrities like Cosby.
The only thing Lublin has said she wanted from Cosby was “an apology," and for him to "take responsibility for his actions." She has not received any of her asks.
If anything, his behavior after leaving prison — continuing to claim his innocence, throwing a V-for-victory sign in the air outside of his home — showed her he was anything but remorseful, she says.
Cosby’s release did not exonerate him from being found guilty of aggravated indecent assault by a jury of his peers.
“This is a crime against a human being, their body, their soul, their mind,” she says. “It absolutely destroys their life and changes the pattern and pathways that this person is going to take forever.”
The consequences of his actions will now come to fruition, Lublin says, because he has to face the public. She points to the situation boiling over with Howard University and actress Phylicia Rashad, who starred as Cosby's wife in “The Cosby Show.”
Following Cosby’s release, Rashad tweeted that “a terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” Rashad — a dean at Howard — has since backtracked, saying she supports sexual assault survivors who come forward. Howard also released a statement saying survivors are their priority.
Despite Cosby’s release and the debate over Rashad’s comments, Lublin says progress has been made since Cosby was convicted. The public discussion and pushback show how this case is transforming rape culture and flaws in the legal system in real-time, Lublin says.
Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center and co-founder of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, says that progress is thanks to the “power of survivors” who spoke up to challenge societal norms and the criminal justice system.
Goss Graves has been thinking about the people who “bravely came forward” against Cosby and are now “rightly disappointed in the way the system failed them,” she says.
Since Pennsylvania’s highest court’s decision was unusual, she does not expect to see wide application of the ruling to other cases. The prosecutor in the Cosby case did not originally believe Constand when she came forward with the accusations, Goss Graves says — a clear example of how people who report sexual assaults are often afraid to do so out of fear of not being believed.
“Most sexual assault isn't ever reported at all. But for those who do come forward and do report, they face people all along the way who disbelieve them, who disrespect them, who disregard them,” she says.
Goss Graves hopes people who are weighing whether or not to report a sexual assault will find strength in the #MeToo movement. She also wants prosecutors to look at the Cosby case, reassess their tactics and address the widespread demand for justice.
“To meet this moment, we actually have to have spaces where survivors can get justice [and] can get accountability that feels real to them,” she says. “What's in place right now isn't working. It's not serving survivors well.”
This segment aired on July 6, 2021.