SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Advocates for sexual assault victims are reacting to word that Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday after his conviction was thrown out.
“My thoughts were really with the survivors — those survivors or any survivors — because when anything is in the news like that, it can trigger and traumatize them,” says Doris Williams, the executive director of the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire.
“We want survivors to know that we’re here for them in whatever way they need,” said Williams.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated Cosby’s conviction based on procedural facts. A former prosecutor indicated he would not pursue criminal charges against Cosby if he participated in a deposition in a civil case being brought against him by a woman who said he’d attacked her.
In the civil case deposition, Cosby incriminated himself. Some years later, a different prosecutor used information from the deposition to bring a criminal case against the celebrity.
Williams hopes local victims won’t be discouraged by the decision. “In (the Cosby case), it was just a very unique situation, and it does not have to be the outcome for a local survivor’s case,” she said.
“The publicity on this case could very well make a person hesitate (about filing criminal charges), but at the end of the day, we always encourage survivors to do what’s best for them. That’s why we try to focus on the healing aspect, and when it comes to the legal, we’re there for support,” said Williams.
She does acknowledge that pursuing a criminal case can be daunting in terms of time.
“The assault could have occurred today, and it would be 15 to 18 months before you’re actually in a courtroom,” says Williams.
She says the Rape Crisis Center works with survivors on the healing process which doesn’t have to be tied to the outcome of a criminal case or filing charges at all. Williams just hopes that anyone who wants to file criminal charges won’t be scared or discouraged by the publicity on the Cosby case.
“Whatever they need us to do, we’re there to support them,” says Williams.
For an appointment for counseling services, call 912-233-3000.