Following comedian Bill Cosby’s conviction on sexual assault charges, Professor Rachel López discussed alternative pathways to justice for his accusers in an interview aired by WHYY on May 4.
Cosby faces up to 30 years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, though dozens more women have accused him of molesting and assaulting them.
The maximum sentence would amount to life in prison for Cosby, 80, reporter Annette John-Hall observed in the podcast, which is part of a series, “Cosby Unraveled.”
“There’s a whole host of ways that victims can heal from crimes, and it doesn’t always mean locking someone up behind bars,“ López said. “Some victims find trials healing, but there are some that actually don’t. They find it really traumatizing and sometimes it revictimizes survivors. I think that we as a society on the whole need to think of alternative or complementary ways of healing society’s ills.”
Some accusers may be well served by confronting Cosby personally, just as scores of victims of former USA Gymnastics team doctor and University of Michigan State University professor Larry Nassar addressed him during his sentencing hearing following his conviction for criminal sexual conduct, López said.
“Survivors come together and share their stories and feel supported,” López said. “Since it’s not a traditional judicial process, there’s more flexibility in the structure that it takes, which allows for survivors to feel like they have more of a voice.”
While Nassar apologized to his victims, Cosby has maintained that he is innocent.
“If you’re looking for an apology, you may be unlikely to get that in a criminal proceeding,” López said. “That’s one of the reasons why criminal prosecutions can be unsatisfying for survivors. “
López studied restorative and transitional justice in Guatemala, which experienced decades of human rights violations, as a Fulbright Scholar and as a Schell Fellow at Yale Law School.