As a survivor of drug-facilitated sexual assault, I’m stunned and horrified by the release of Bill Cosby, a man who under oath admitted to giving women he wanted to have sex with illegal quaaludes. Sixty women have accused Cosby of violating consent through acts including groping, sexual assault, and rape. Yet he was released due to a prosecutorial issue that doesn’t take into account the victims’ testimony or his own admissions.

Cosby’s release was not based on his innocence, but rather because former District Attorney Bruce Castor told Cosby he didn’t intend to prosecute him, and based on this Cosby provided damaging testimony later used as evidence by Kevin Steele, the Montgomery County district attorney who got him convicted. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court thus decided that Cosby’s trial was unfair and released him.

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A Montgomery County judge had previously deemed Cosby a sexually violent predator under Megan’s Law, which is not a casual designation. It means a judge ruled Cosby had, according to the Pennsylvania State Police, “a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.” This designation requires the individual to appear four times per year because it’s the worst offense category under Megan’s Law. Now such an individual has been released from prison without an opportunity for a retrial and without supervision.

Predators frequently contest their sentences. In an eerie parallel, the serial rapist who drugged and raped me in Philadelphia is appealing his Idaho conviction, alleging ineffective counsel after being deemed a sexually violent predator in Pennsylvania, sentenced to 21 years in a Pennsylvania prison, and later convicted of rape in Idaho. Similar to Cosby, he is contesting his prison sentence based on a legal technicality. We have no way of knowing how many women he raped, because many won’t come forward. Now more than ever, we can understand why.

As someone who came forward to report sexual assault and has experienced the legal process from preliminary hearings and court testimony to parole hearings, I can attest to the challenges for victims. I’m worried the decision to release a high-profile predator may deter others from coming forward.

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Overturning Cosby’s conviction may send women the message that their stories simply will not be believed, even when they are joined by dozens of others making allegations. Even without reinforcing this message, women often have enough trouble believing themselves after experiencing sexual assault or misconduct.

Men like Cosby and my rapist attempt to build trust — the former based on his reputation as “America’s Dad,” the latter by masquerading as a doctor. Multiple women reported that each man used drugs to facilitate assault. In addition to hindering victims’ ability to offer consent, these drugs leave them with limited memories. That impairment, combined with the men’s seemingly innocuous reputations, can send victims spiraling into self-doubt and reduce the chances of women coming forward.

“Trauma-informed experts indicate that reporting long after the incident is the norm, not the exception.”

Allison Weidhaas

But the only way to get predators off the street is to report what happened, even if that doesn’t occur immediately. A long-held rape myth, in line with Cosby’s defense strategy of shaming and dismissing accounts of the women who came forward, is that victims immediately report. This is not true, especially when the victim knows his or her assailant. Like many other survivors, I came forward and Andrea Constand came forward months or years later. And trauma-informed experts indicate that reporting long after the incident is the norm, not the exception.

Reporting an assault makes a difference. Even if Cosby’s conviction was overturned, he spent three years in prison. My rapist has been imprisoned for 15 years. During their incarceration, these sexually violent predators couldn’t hurt other women.

We need our system to protect current and future victims, not those who violated them.

Dr. Allison Weidhaas, associate professor at Rider University, studies gender issues including female business owners, work/life issues, and gender-based violence. She is the author of a book on female business owners, has contributed to numerous publications, and is working on a book about the women who survived the match.com serial rapist. She is also an advocate for gender equality and speaks to audiences about her sexual assault.