AP National Writer

When Indira Henard, director of the DC Rape Crisis Center, received the text message Wednesday, she thought she wasn’t reading her phone correctly. “Indira oh my god,” said the message from a colleague. “Cosby’s walking out of prison.”

“I put on the news and there it was, and my heart just dropped,” Henard said. “I thought about how all our survivors would be feeling.”

During the afternoon, Henard says the center’s hotline was “off the hook, with survivors needing a place to process, and people asking, ‘What happened? I don’t understand. He got convicted. Why would they do this?’” The center held support sessions Wednesday evening and scheduled emergency sessions Thursday to deal with the news.

When America watched Bill Cosby — once “America’s Dad” — go off to prison nearly three years ago, it was perhaps the most stunning development yet of the nascent #MeToo movement, which had emerged in late 2017 with allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Advocates and survivors of sexual assault hoped the movement would usher in an era of accountability for harassers and abusers — and in many ways, it did. Victims have been increasingly emboldened in recent years to seek justice, even for years-ago abuse, hoping their allegations would be taken more seriously.

But on Wednesday, as the nation digested the equally stunning sight of Cosby released from prison, some worried it would have a chilling effect on survivors, who often don’t come forward because they don’t believe it will bring justice. And they wondered whether some of the movement’s momentum, already slowed by the pandemic, would be lost amid the feeling that another powerful man had gotten away with it — albeit on a technicality.


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