Advocates for domestic violence victims worry Bill Cosby’s release will silence sexual assault survivors

Agencies remind survivors that they are not alone

RADFORD, Va. – Advocates for domestic violence survivors are worried that the recent ruling on Bill Cosby’s case will impact sexual abuse victims. However, there are agencies reminding survivors that they are not alone.

It can be a challenge to encourage sexual assault victims to feel comfortable and tell their stories. But with the recent Bill Cosby prison release, the New River Valley Women’s Center is worried some survivors will become silent.

“I hope this doesn’t deter people from telling their story and finding healing somewhere with someone,” said New River Valley Women’s Center Executive Director Laura Beth Weaver.

Sexual Violence Programs Coordinator Patty McComas Hall said survivors sometimes lose hope when they see a case fail in the legal system.

“They feel like ‘oh my gosh something like this has happened to me,’” Hall said. “This is what I’m seeing happening to someone who was supposed to be going through the legal system. This doesn’t feel right. This doesn’t feel good.”

But she said their emotions cannot just be neglected.

“And yes, it could potentially have survivors go, ‘I don’t want to go through this process for something like that to happen,’” she said.

However, help is not far away. Unique Phillips, a sex trafficking case manager, works with survivors one on one and said communication is key.

“We have to build that trust and with people coming forward we will see a lot of triggers that may transpire and make them want to come forward,” Phillips said. “And triggers come in different forms.”

Weaver said change will come when society stops victim-blaming and holds perpetrators more accountable, but she said they will never stop lending an ear. The center provides chatlines, hotlines, counselors, legal advocates and a shelter for anyone in need.

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