It would be easy to think of Andrea Constand as a kind of Wonder Woman who brought Bill Cosby to justice with her Lariat of Truth.
That’s just it. It would be easy. Easy to believe that heroines are born that way, that they have an extra chromosome for courage or fearlessness.
I think of a quotation by Albert Einstein: “It's not that I'm so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
What if Andrea Constand was not Wonder Woman? What if she just stayed with the problem longer?
Let’s look at the temptations she faced, temptations that face any victim who attempts to confront her perpetrator. Constand didn’t always meet them successfully. Sometimes she wavered, hesitated, fumbled, backed away… but she always--eventually--came back, and when she did, she came back stronger, with more support, and with greater clarity.
So here are the Seven Temptations of Andrea Constand:
Cosby was not a new acquaintance, nor was he a date. Constand had known him for two years, since 2002 when she came to work at Temple University as the director of operations for the women’s basketball program. Cosby, a member of the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame was a frequent fundraiser and honored guest. In his sixties, he had positioned himself as a mentor to her, inviting her to dinner parties, and then to private dinners, at his home outside of Philadelphia. He would talk to her about basketball, her career, and spiritual beliefs. He met her family and cultivated a relationship with them. He had groomed her patiently for victimization.
The night of the rape, Cosby invited her over, to “offer her assistance in her pursuit of a different career.” She testified that he gave her three pills, claiming they were herbal supplements for stress. He insisted that she take all three.
Constand was drugged. Her memory of the incident was impaired, filled with blackouts, vague impressions, and she experienced enormous disorientation when she recovered consciousness. She remembered waking up on a couch at four in the morning, her clothing in disarray and Cosby standing over her in a bathrobe. Confused and mortified, her initial response was a kneejerk, socially conditioned one: She expressed embarrassment over her disheveled state. He gave her a muffin and took her home.
Four months later, she left her job and career, moved back home to Canada, and began studying to become a massage therapist. She stayed in contact with Cosby, and, several months after returning home, she took her parents to see his show at a casino in Ontario.
Constand did not tell anyone for a year. This is not uncommon. She was in survival mode, in flight. What eventually brought her back to the rape was the emphasis in her massage classes on a code of ethics around touch.
In January 2005, Constand finally broke her silence and told her mother. Immediately after that, she reported the rape to the authorities where she lived. They passed the case on to the police in Pennsylvania.
Three days after the report to the police, Cosby and his people began to call her. Constand and her mother stated repeatedly that all they wanted was an apology. Even Cosby admitted this. According to the filing, he told the police that she had not asked for money, “but had only asked him to apologize to Plaintiff and her mother, which he did.”
He apologized several times. On the phone, not in writing.
Offers of money are standard ploys for predators with resources, especially when the victim is not wealthy. Cosby called Constand’s mother and offered to set up an “educational trust” for Constand to attend graduate school, provided she could prove to him that she was maintaining a grade point average of 3.0. He later admitted he had done this for another accuser.
Constand turned it down.
The District Attorney, declining to file charges, stated, “I think that factors such as failure to disclose in a timely manner and contacts with the alleged perpetrator after the event are factors that weigh toward Mr. Cosby… Much exists in this investigation that could be used to portray persons on both sides of the issue in a less-than-flattering light.”
Constand’s actions were consistent with choices made by trauma survivors in the immediate aftermath, but juries and judges are rarely trauma literate, and it is easy for victims to feel ashamed for not being better plaintiffs. At this point, many victims give up, and Constand might have done that, except that Cosby began a campaign to discredit her as an extortioner.
After offering Constand an apology and money, Cosby and his reps went to the tabloids with a story about how Constand’s mother had demanded money from him even before Constand had contacted the police. Cosby insisted that the relationship had been consensual. As a second and then third woman came forward with similar stories of being drugged and raped by Cosby, he gave a personal interview to The National Enquirer, in exchange for them killing the story of the third woman. In the interview, he described Constand in such specific detail there could be no question about her identity.
Six days after the Enquirer story, Constand filed a civil suit in federal court--
under her own name, her anonymity already having been compromised by Cosby’s interview. She accused Cosby of “battery, assault, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation/defamation per se, and false light/invasion of privacy.” Because of all the publicity—much of it propagated by Cosby himself—ten other victims contacted Constand’s legal team to offer corroborating testimony.
Constand’s team requested a protective order to shield the identity of these women from the press. This was not unusual. What was unusual was that the Cosby team also moved for a protective order that would seal not only his testimony, but that of his accusers. This move caught the attention of the Associated Press. What was Cosby attempting to hide? The AP made two separate attempts to force open the court records, and Constand sided with them.
Cosby settled with the usual terms: neither party is ever allowed to discuss the case or to disclose the amount of the settlement.
But Cosby continued to defame Constand. When even more women began to come forward, Cosby’s website posted a statement in clear violation of the settlement agreement, that “decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact they are being repeated does not make them true.”
Immediately Constand forced him to publish a retraction, which he did: “The statement released by Mr. Cosby’s attorney over the weekend was not intended to refer in any way to Andrea Constand.”
And, finally, as the AP continued to push for disclosure of the court records of her civil suit, a federal judge ordered the deposition unsealed. He stated that Cosby, in posturing for years as a “public moralist,” had forfeited his right to privacy. The world could read for itself Cosby’s admission that he had obtained nine prescriptions for Quaaludes to be given to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
All because Constand just stayed with the problem longer.