Minutes before the trial was set to start Friday morning at the Montgomery County Courthouse just outside of Philadelphia, Victoria Valentino stood in a small crowd of spectators waiting to enter the courtroom. A resident of L.A., she flew to Philly to attend the trial; she’s been sitting in the courtroom ever since opening statements began on Monday.
“I hope he suffers the consequences of his actions, because we certainly have,” Valentino said. Now in her early 70s, Valentino was the 16th victim to come forward, alleging Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her in Los Angeles in 1969. Valentino said she and the other accusers who have been in contact over the years — women who have told practically identical stories about Cosby drugging and raping them — have been waiting for years for their alleged perpetrator to face his crimes. For a long time it seemed as if they would never find the justice they were seeking, that is until Andrea Constand, a former athletic director from Temple University, stepped forward to file charges.
While this week’s case hinges on whether a jury finds Cosby guilty of assaulting Constand (none of the other accusations have any bearing on this case), in many ways Constand’s case has become Valentino’s case, a case belonging to each of the now more than 50 women who have come forward to say Cosby has raped and assaulted them.
Valentino, a former Playboy bunny, first told New York Magazine her painful story in 2015 when she appeared with 35 Cosby accusers documenting how the one-time TV dad allegedly drugged and assaulted them over the course of four decades. Valentino met Cosby in 1969 when she and a friend were having dinner at a West Hollywood restaurant the comedian co-owned. She was going through a tough time, having just lost her 6-year-old son, when Cosby invited them out for a seemingly fun night on the town. But in an eerie echo of what Constand told the jury on Tuesday, Valentino has spent the last several years telling her own tale of how Cosby offered her two pills and then later raped her in his home.
“He sat down and unzipped his fly, and had me give him oral sex,” Valentino originally told New York. “He stood up, turned me over, did me doggy style, and walked out. Just as he got to the door, I was going, ‘How do we get out of here, how do we get home?’ He said, ‘Call a cab.’”
Listening to Constand’s testimony this week brought back the memories vividly, Valentino said. She, too, was paralyzed, unable to move or speak. “It was really amazing me yesterday [in court],” said Valentino, “all of his delusional fantasies.” As we filed inside the courtroom, Valentino spared no time calling Cosby a textbook narcissist and a liar. “He can spin a tale with no remorse,” she said. “He’s a predator.”
According to Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer at Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), Cosby’s defense has been pretty predictable. As someone who’s worked with rape victims for more than 25 years, Houser is attending the trial to shed light on victims and to discuss the tendency for rapists to blame the victims, or at the very least shame them. “We live in a society where we blame the victim,” she said outside the courtroom on Friday. “But it’s common for a victim to feel confused or be in denial.” She said none of Constand’s behavior either before or after the alleged assault is at all unique to victims.
But the big question is whether Constand’s accusations will be enough to bring to a close a very painful chapter in the life of not just Constand, but also the many accusers, most of whom are prevented by the statute of limitations from ever pressing charges. For some of these women, it’s taken decades to be able to speak publicly of the events. For Valentino, it’s been well worth the wait. She traveled across the country just to be able to sit in the courtroom.
Sitting on a bench with faded sunlight streaming though the Venetian blinds, the petite Valentino is poised and determined as she speaks. She said she has never once regretted coming forward.
“But I don’t think any of us really thought this day would happen,” she said.