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Wrightsman's Psychology and the Legal System 9th Edition

Wrightsman's Psychology and the Legal System (9th Edition)

Book Edition9th Edition
Author(s)Greene, Heilbrun
Types of Victims
Violence, Crime, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The Psychology of Rape
Sexual Harassment
Chapter 6, The Psychology of Rape, CRITICAL THOUGHT QUESTION, Exercise 03
Page 139

The Case of Bill Cosby: Prominence and the Accusation of Sexual Assault


Bill Cosby was an American icon. An early African American star of a television show (I Spy), the guiding force and star of one of the most popular television shows about a family (The Cosby Show), a talented and durable comedian—he was simply one of the most admired and influential individuals in the entertainment industry. So it came as a shock to many when Cosby was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004 after inviting her over to his home. Constand was a Temple University employee; Cosby received his undergraduate degree from Temple and served for a number of years on Temple's board.


The shock grew as a number of women with similar stories came forward. These stories involved being drugged and sexually assaulted by  Mr. Cosby. How accurate were they? Why had the women not reported these encounters to the police? How is it possible that so many sexual victimizations had reportedly occurred without criminal prosecution?


Some answers to these questions may emerge in the wake of a second trial following the June 2017 mistrial in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Cosby is criminally charged in the Constand case. Prosecutors and Cosby's defense attorneys have sparred over whether the testimony of women other than Constand should be admitted at trial. One prosecutor described Cosby as showing a "lifetime of sexual assault on young women" and sought to introduce the testimony of these women to show a pattern of behavior. Defense attorneys questioned the memories and motives of these possible witnesses.


Because Cosby was a trusted and admired figure in American culture, and because this behavior (if described accurately) was so abusive and destructive, there has been a great deal of media coverage in this case. Because he is also an individual of considerable wealth, he can afford a vigorous defense that involves questioning the memories and motives of his accusers. This played out in the media over a period of years, and it was not clear until 2016 that these accusations would ever lead to criminal prosecution. Now that they have, the importance of the questions of prior behavior and possible patterns has become very clear.




What are the advantages and disadvantages of admitting evidence concerning the history of previous allegations of sexual assault by the alleged perpetrator? Of admitting previous allegations of sexual assault made by the alleged victim?

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