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3 reasons why Bill Cosby’s assault charge is a big win for brave women.

Bill Cosby faces felony charges of aggravated indecent assault.

3 reasons why Bill Cosby’s assault charge is a big win for brave women.

Finally, Bill Cosby is facing felony charges of aggravated indecent assault for an encounter with a woman in 2004.

If you didn't see this one coming, you're not alone.


Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press.

Charges were filed against Cosby in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, after new information surfaced in July that was relevant to the nearly 12-year-old case, according to The Washington Post.

Prosecutor Kevin Steele mapped out a timeline of events on Wednesday, claiming that the comedian befriended alleged victim Andrea Constand before making unwanted sexual advances, and then, in January 2004, using pills that "paralyzed" her before the assault. Constand's account, although disturbing, is unfortunately not that unique.

Since the 1960s, dozens of women have claimed Cosby sexually assaulted them, many saying the comedian used drugs to do so.

Women who've accused Cosby of sexual assault and sexual harassment — Colleen Hughes (L), Linda Ridgeway Whitedeer (C), and Eden Tirl (R) — at a news conference. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

But like so many other accusations against powerful, wealthy, influential, and (at least in this case) universally beloved people, these women faced steep uphill battles in seeking justice — even when the arguments defending Cosby were flat-out ridiculous (thank you, Amy Schumer, for pointing this out to us).

On Wednesday, however, the first battle for justice was won.

This first victory is a truly remarkable win for the brave women who decided to speak up. Why? Because by speaking up, they had to overcome these three barriers (and many others):

1. No one wanted to believe Dr. Cliff Huxtable could be capable of sexually assaulting numerous women.

But we have to remember: Mr. Cosby and Mr. Huxtable are not the same person.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

The world fell in love with the Huxtables — "America's first black family" — on "The Cosby Show," with a beloved Bill steering the ship in the lead role.

"'The Cosby Show' debuted during the Reagan era, when the plagues of crack, AIDS, and spiraling homicide were ravaging African Americans," Jelani Cobb of the University of Connecticut told Ebony magazine. "['The Cosby Show' was] huge among black people because it was a counterpoint to the stream of negativity that we heard and saw about ourselves so frequently during those years."

And it wasn't just black people — America fell in love with Cosby and his Huxtable crew, making the show the country's most-watched TV program for five of the eight seasons it aired on NBC.

Off-camera, Cosby's advocacy in promoting education and children's literature further cemented admiration for the trailblazing entertainer who was making the world a better place.

But humans aren't one-dimensional characters. We have strengths and flaws. And even someone like Cosby — who used an A-list career and platform to do so much good — can also be capable of doing so much immeasurable harm.

The comedian the world fell in love with is not Mr. Huxtable. Challenging the world to realize that is a difficult feat these women had to take head on.

2. In many cases, time works against victims of sexual assault, unfairly so.

The allegations against Cosby are no different.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Statutes of limitations — laws that prevent someone from being charged with a crime if a certain number of years has passed since the crime occurred — often hinders a survivor's chance at justice.

Across the country, 34 states have statutes of limitations when it comes to filing rape or sexual assault charges. Seeing as "rape is a crime of shame and humiliation" that keeps many victims from coming forward for years or even decades, as Yeshiva University's Marci Hamilton explained, statutes of limitations frequently favor the violators.

And even if survivors do come forward right away, slow, bureaucratic processes within law enforcement can prevent justice from being served once the statutes expire, as rape survivor Mel Townsend learned the hard way back in 2008.

In Constand's case, Cosby was just days away from being safe from any charges, as the alleged crime was committed in January 2004, and Pennsylvania has a 12-year statute of limitations when it comes to sexual assault instances like hers.

3. Celebrities oftentimes have a leg up in our supposedly blind justice system.

America loves its celebrities — so much so, we can't stand the thought of putting them in jail.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

There's no shortage of examples to look to. Celebrities have abused their partners, gotten DUIs, stabbed other people, and walked off scot-free (or damn-near close).

"There are two criminal justice systems in the United States," Matt Clarke wrote for Prison Legal News. "One is for people with wealth, fame or influence who can afford to hire top-notch attorneys and public relations firms, who make campaign contributions to sheriffs, legislators, and other elected officials, and who enjoy certain privileges due to their celebrity status or the size of their bank accounts. The other justice system is for everybody else."

A celeb like Cosby doesn't just have the best legal team money can buy, he also has the unique opportunity to belittle his accusers on a stage, in front of an audience of adoring fans who still think he's as clever as ever.

Today doesn't just mark a step forward for Andrea Constand. It's a big win, and sign of hope, for brave women everywhere who've decided to speak up.

Coming out as a survivor of rape and sexual assault can be an incredibly difficult thing to do. Doing it when the violator is an A-list celebrity with millions of trusting fans? That's a whole other ball game.

These women — and the countless others who've defended themselves in the face of injustice — deserve our respect and support.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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