Before Tuesday, Andrea Constand had never uttered a word in public about the incident that brought her to a Norristown, Pennsylvania, courtroom this week: a sexual encounter with Bill Cosby in 2004 that she calls assault and he says was consensual. Under a settlement Constand and Cosby reached in 2006, Constand was prohibited from speaking publicly about her accusation.
Now, Constand is the only one of five-dozen women who’ve accused Cosby of sexual assault who stands a chance of getting retribution in court. Statutes of limitations have expired in all the other cases. Constand, with a story that closely mirrors those of Cosby’s other alleged victims, has become a stand-in for all the other women who will never get to force Cosby into a courtroom reckoning of his alleged crimes.
The assault Constand described in her testimony on Tuesday, the second day of Cosby’s trial, is the stuff of nightmares. The two had met through Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, where Constand was on the basketball staff. After a year and a half of cordial friendship, they met at Cosby’s home in suburban Philadelphia. According to Constand, the comedian gave her three blue pills to help with the stress she was feeling over an upcoming career shift. “These will help you relax,” he said, according to her testimony. “Put ’em down, they’re your friends. They’ll take the edge off.” When Constand asked if they were herbal supplements, she said, Cosby nodded and gave her a glass of water with which to swallow them. A few minutes later, “I began to slur my words, and I also told Mr. Cosby that I had trouble seeing him, that I could see two of him,” Constand testified, according to a report from Billy Penn. Cosby told her to relax and brought her to a couch. She lost consciousness.
When Constand was “jolted awake,” she said on the stand on Tuesday, Cosby was assaulting her. “I felt Mr. Cosby’s hand groping my breasts under my shirt. I also felt his hand inside my vagina moving in and out. And I felt him take my hand and place it on his penis and move it back and forth,” she said. “In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move or my legs to move, and I was frozen. I wasn’t able to fight … I wanted it to stop.” After it was over, and she could move her body again, she says she moved into Cosby’s kitchen, where he gave her a muffin and some tea, then exited his house without saying anything to him, because “I felt really humiliated, and I was really confused.”
Some time later, according to Constand, she returned to Cosby’s home to demand to know what was in the pills he gave her. “Mr. Cosby looked at me and said, ‘I thought you had an orgasm, didn’t you?’ ” Constand said. “And I said, ‘I did not. I just want to know what you gave me.’ ” After a while, she decided he wasn’t going to give her an answer and left.
In a 2005 deposition for the civil suit that led to Constand’s settlement, Cosby admitted to giving women alcohol and Quaaludes when he wanted to have sex with them. But he still insists that the drug-taking and sex acts Constand describes were consensual. Constand, who was 30 years old to Cosby’s 65 when the alleged assault took place, was dating a woman at the time and identifies as gay.
Constand’s testimony on Tuesday casts new light on Cosby’s assertion that Constand consented to the sexual activity because, as he said in the 2005 deposition, “She does not look angry. She does not say to me, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ She doesn’t walk out with an attitude of a huff.” In Constand’s telling, she was physically incapacitated during the assault and thoroughly shaken afterward, as a reasonable person might be after such a violation. She also said he had tried to undo her pants on another occasion, and she’d told him, “I don’t want that.” A victim should not have to scream and slam a door to prove she did not want to be drugged and penetrated.
During opening remarks, the New York Times reports, a defense attorney told the jurors in Norristown that Constand had made the whole thing up. She made 53 calls to Cosby after the alleged assault, the lawyer said—why would she do that if he’d violated her? There are a hundred possible reasons, one of which Constand got at in her testimony: She’d been betrayed by an admired friend and wanted answers. Cosby’s defense suggests that there is no correct response for a survivor of sexual violence. Anything you do can and will be used against you.