Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday Long Read: Unraveling The Sweater

Vanity Fair's Mark Seal takes a look at the case against Bill Cosby, and the sexual assault charges from 2004 that ended up opening the floodgate and strengthened the push to extend statute of limitations laws on sexual assault crimes.

It began with a young woman screaming in her sleep.

Andrea Constand, then 31, had left her job as director of operations of the women’s basketball team at Temple University, in Philadelphia, to return home outside of Toronto to live with her parents. She planned to begin studies to become a massage therapist. Six feet tall, her red hair a mass of curls, she was, her father would say, “the most truthful, honest, and faithful kid I’ve ever met.” Her prowess on the basketball court had attracted scholarship offers from dozens of colleges, and later she played professionally in Sicily before finding a job at Temple University, the alma mater of Bill Cosby. But when she returned home her upbeat personality had dimmed into darkness. She suffered from nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression, and she isolated herself from her friends and her family.

When her mother, Gianna, asked her what was wrong, Andrea wouldn’t answer. Then, on January 12, 2005, after experiencing a “flashback,” she told her mother that Bill Cosby had sexually assaulted her. Cosby had been attracted to Andrea the first time he saw her, at a Temple basketball game. “Before he acted upon that interest, he needed to develop a friendship with her,” according to a police affidavit. He courted her with his stardom, power, and influence, inviting her to dinners with academics and entertainment-industry professionals, and offering her fatherly advice about her life and career plans. She had no romantic interest in the television star, 36 years her senior, and she has said she twice rebuffed what she called his embarrassing sexual advances, once when he unbuttoned her pants and began touching her. Still, she trusted him, so when he called in January 2004, offering to discuss her life and career and telling her that they would be alone and to “dress in comfortable clothing,” she accepted.

Arriving at 8:45 P.M. at his sprawling home on five lush acres in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, one of his three residences (the other two are in rural Massachusetts and Los Angeles), “she came in through the kitchen door,” Cosby would later say. She told him that she was considering changing jobs, leaving her demanding position at Temple, and that making the decision had drained her. After pouring her a glass of wine, she said, Cosby went upstairs and returned with what he called “three friends,” three blue pills which, he said, “will make you feel good. The blue things will take the edge off.”

Constand asked if they were herbal.

“Yes,” said Cosby, according to her account. “Down them. Put them down. Put them in your mouth.”

She did. He urged her to taste the wine, but she protested that she hadn’t eaten all day. “Just taste the wine,” he pressed.

So she did. They continued to talk, but after 20 or 30 minutes her vision blurred, and she found it difficult to speak.

“I can’t even talk, Mr. Cosby,” she told him.

Her legs were “rubbery and like jelly.” She had lost any sense of place and time, was “in and out” of awareness, “frozen” and “paralyzed.” “Everything was blurry and dizzy,” she told the police. “I couldn’t keep my eyes open.”

Cosby said he was going to lay her down on the couch. “I’m going to let you relax,” he said, leading her to the couch. Suddenly, she felt him behind her. “I was aware that his hands were on my breasts,” she said. “His hands were in my pants and his fingers in my vagina . . . . I also remember him taking my right hand and placing my hand on his penis . . . . I was unable to move my body. I was pretty much frozen.”

Seal does a pretty good job here exploring the case, the history, the stories of the women who came forward, and the difficulty in proving assault in a courtroom.  I can understand people being uncomfortable reading it, but it's something that I believe you should do.

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