East Tenn. survivors of sexual violence hope for change after Bill Cosby’s conviction

Local News

Comedian Bill Cosby was found guilty Thursday on all three counts of indecent assault. Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004.

Over the last few years, dozens of women have come out against Cosby, accusing him of sexual misconduct, but this is the first case resulting in criminal charges.

More: Cosby convicted of sexually assaulting woman

Candace, a survivor of rape, did not want to reveal her full name or face.

WATE 6 On Your Side spoke spoke with her Friday after hearing the news about Cosby’s conviction.

“Shocked, kind of surprised. I guess it was hard for me to kind of picture him being that kind of person,” she said.

At the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, advocates say this verdict is encouraging and hopeful.

“It can show survivors that justice can be served,” said Catherine Oaks, assistant director of victims services.

While some are questioning why these women didn’t speak up sooner, counselors say every survivor of sexual violence reads and deals with trauma differently.

“I think one of the most important things that we see in the work that we do is to start by believing. And that is when a survivor of sexual violence comes forward and our first response is to believe what they say,” said Oaks.

She believes it’s a huge step forward for survivors showing that no matter age or status, a person can be held accountable.

“We have perpetrators that are that old. There are individuals, 74-plus years old who are watching child porn,” added Oaks.

There’s hope this ruling will create change.

“If there are any victims that haven’t spoke up, this should be a really huge eye-opener to say ‘You can do it.’ It should really be able to speak to a lot of people because the courage some people have is just not enough to bring it to someone,” said Candace.

It can be hard feeling safe but there are resources if you need help. The Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee has a 24/7 crisis hotline, that number is (865) 522-7273.

Trained advocates will be able to point you to resources, information, and therapists. Advocates also walk you through what happens next, what it will look like if you report it to law enforcement or will be going through a college hearing process.

For more information and resources from the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, you can visit their website by clicking here.

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