Bill Cosby Verdict Was Traumatic For Survivors But Might Inspire Some To Speak Out, Expert Says

Comedian Bill Cosby walks free after being released from prison.
Gettyimages | Mark Makela
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Bill Cosby was released from the Pennsylvania prison system in June, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided to toss his sexual assault conviction on an apparent technicality.

The decision shocked the American public and stunned sexual assault survivors, reigniting the national conversation about the #MeToo movement.

According to one trauma expert, the 83-year-old comedian's scandalous release from prison sends a terrible signal to sexual assault survivors and shows that rich and powerful men often don't face consequences for their actions.

Keep reading to find out what else the expert said.

Money & Power

Speaking with Business Insider, psychologist and trauma expert Dr. Shauna Springer said that the reversal of Cosby's conviction is incredibly discouraging for survivors.

The Supreme Court's decision, Springer explained, tells survivors "that those with the money and power to retain expensive lawyers can often find technicalities that will allow them to evade justice."

Prior to the court's decision, the disgraced sitcom star had been convicted on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, and was serving a three- to 10-year sentence.

Trauma

Springer explained that survivors of sexual assault often experience symptoms of psychological trauma for years, even after a perpetrator has been tried and convicted.

"Reporting a sexual assault requires a great deal of courage," Springer noted, adding that reporting an assault can be traumatic in and of itself.

"Many survivors are re-traumatized by the process that ensues in seeking justice -- from collecting the evidence of assault to repeatedly sharing their story in a public forum. And there is no guarantee that they will receive justice," she said.

Silver Lining

Though the reversal of Cosby's verdict is re-traumatizing for many and sends a horrifying message, it might inspire sexual assault survivors to speak out and share their stories, according to Springer.

"This is more likely to happen if they connect to a community of support, if they have trusted people in their lives that believe them, and healers who understand innovative ways to help them heal," the expert explained.

"Healing and forward movement are always possible with the right insights and support," she added.

Implications

Comedian Bill Cosby speaks at an event.
Shutterstock | 91466

Tarana Burke, the feminist activist who gave the #MeToo movement its name, seems to be in agreement with Springer. Burke recently told The Chicago Sun-Times that the reversal of Cosby's conviction had a chilling effect on survivors.

Scott Berkowitz, executive director of the anti-sexual violence non-profit RAINN, told the outlet that his organization's hotline calls surged following the court's decision to overturn Cosby's guilty verdict.

Cosby, meanwhile, has enjoyed the support of his family. His wife Camille has dismissed the accusations as racist, saying that her husband is being lynched by white women.