More than 60 women accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, but the task of convincing a jury that “America’s dad” was a predator fell to just one: Andrea Constand. She met him in 2002 when Cosby came to a basketball game at Temple University, where Constand worked. It wasn’t long before he invited her to his home in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, to talk “about personal situations dealing with her life, growth, education.”
Instead, Cosby assaulted Constand after giving her wine and three pills that she says left her “frozen.” Cosby was arrested on charges of aggravated indecent assault in 2015, and after a mistrial was found guilty on all three counts in 2018. Below, an adapted excerpt from Constand’s new memoir The Moment (Viking Canada, September 7, 2021), which details her journey to hold accountable one of the most beloved men on television.
I was perched on the corner of my bed, in my parent’s cozy cottage-style house in Pickering, Ontario, as a chilly mid-February day faded outside. This place had been my refuge for almost a year now—ever since I’d returned from Philadelphia after many years far from home. I was holding my cellphone to my ear, listening carefully. I knew this conversation was coming, but there was part of me that wasn’t quite ready to have it.
A few hours earlier, I had been out running errands with my sister when my mother phoned. “Dolores is going to give you a call,” she said. This was Dolores Troiani—she and Bebe Kivitz were my lawyers. Diana and I cut short our trip so I could be in the house when the call came.
When we pulled into our quiet street, I knew that whatever my lawyers were going to tell me was big news. The road in front of our house was lined with vans and cars emblazoned with the logos of TV stations and newspapers. Reporters had been harassing my parents and me for weeks now. They called our home phone non-stop; they turned up on our doorstep at all times of the day and night. Sometimes they showed up en masse, like troops camped right outside our front door. That was the scene this day. Clearly something major had just happened.
Diana and I hadn’t been in the house long before my cell rang.
“Andrea”—Dolores’s tone was kind but measured and matter-of-fact—“we’re sorry to tell you this, but the DA isn’t going to move forward with the case. There won’t be any charges.”
I wasn’t surprised. Not really.
My lawyers and I had sensed that the case we were attempting to pursue wasn’t looking good. It was yet another sharp blow in what had already been, without a doubt, the most difficult year of my life.
A little more than twelve months earlier, everything had been different. I was a happy, confident thirty-year-old with a great job as the director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University in Philadelphia. My work at Temple was a natural fit. Sports had always been my passion. I was an active child, and athletics had helped me channel my considerable energy and have fun at the same time. By high school, I was a star basketball player, and in my final year, I was lucky enough to see dozens of university scholarships flood in. In the end, I headed to the University of Arizona to play college ball. It turned out to be a wonderful choice, not just because I enjoyed the team and the school so much, but also because my paternal grandparents decided to retire to Tucson when they learned that I was a bit homesick. I saw them almost every day and was delighted to have my family close by once more.
At the end of my time at university, I had hoped for a spot on the fledgling WNBA roster, but when that didn’t materialize, I wasn’t disappointed for long. After a wonderful year spent teaching basketball skills to middle-school children in North Hollywood, California, I made the Canadian team for the 1997 World University Games in Italy. While there, I was recruited by Sicily’s professional women’s basketball team, and I played for two seasons before returning to Canada. I worked for Nike in Toronto for a short while before taking the Temple position, then spent almost three years in Philly. But in early 2004, I was ready to shift my path again. I was planning to move back to Canada to rejoin my large extended family and my old friends, and to pursue a career in the healing arts, as both my mother and my father had done.
I had a good future before me. I knew who I was and I liked who I was. I was at the top of my game, certain that the groundwork laid by my education and my athletic training had prepared me for whatever challenges were ahead.
But I was wrong. Very wrong.
Nothing could have prepared me for an early January evening spent at the home of a man I considered a friend.
That was the night that Bill Cosby raped me.
I was introduced to Bill Cosby in the autumn of 2002, more than a year after I’d started my job at Temple. He was an alumnus of the university, as well as a trustee, a significant donor, and an enthusiastic supporter of the women’s basketball program. The first time I met him, he was part of a small group of Temple employees and team supporters who were being given a tour of our newly renovated locker room.
I knew who he was, of course, but I had never watched The Cosby Show and had no real idea how big a celebrity he was. He’d been an extremely successful stand-up comedian, and in 1965, he was the first African American to land a starring role in a weekly TV show, the drama I Spy. It was a potent symbol of a changing America; in the previous year, the Civil Rights Act had been signed into law. The Selma March, in which Black protestors were brutalized by police, happened the same year as I Spy hit the airwaves.
Cosby’s star power continued to build with a number of his own TV shows—including the popular children’s animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids—before The Cosby Show debuted in 1984. The family-friendly sitcom, in which Cosby played an obstetrician and father of five, was a huge success during its eight-year run, earning him the nickname America’s Dad. Cosby was also a big hit with marketers—his wholesome image and goofy charm made him the perfect spokesman for Jell-O and Coca-Cola, among other brands. By the mid-eighties, in fact, he’d become the highest-paid entertainer in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
Even as he was conquering the world of stage and screen, Cosby earned a doctorate in education, and he often gave public lectures about the importance of parenting, family, education, personal responsibility, ambition, and self-actualization.
I suppose it’s a testament to how little television I consumed as a child that Bill Cosby and most of his achievements had largely escaped my notice. And so I credited the attention he garnered at Temple—his calls had to be returned immediately, his interest in our new locker room was promptly met with an offer to tour the facility—to the fact that he was a major financial supporter of the university.
Yet despite his obvious importance, Bill Cosby struck me as a down-to-earth and affable guy. During the tour of the locker room, he was surrounded by Temple employees and other supporters, but he appeared to have come alone—or at least without an entourage. He was dressed casually. He joked and bantered—and whenever he spoke, his warmly resonant voice was met with a chorus of chuckles. At one point while we were discussing some of the new athletic equipment, he turned and asked if anyone had a sore back. He had the perfect treatment, he said, and he looked over at me. “Here, I’ll show you.” He told me to stand with my back to his and my arms bent. Once we were back to back, he slipped his arms through mine and attempted to hoist me up. I could tell he was staggering as he did this, and the room erupted in laughter. Since I couldn’t see him, I’m not exactly sure what the joke was—perhaps he was making out that I was too tall for the stretching manoeuvre to work—but whatever it was, it seemed all in good fun. A silly moment with a man who obviously loved to entertain.
After that day, I rarely saw him on campus, but he would often call the office to chat about the team and the overall program. As the head of operations, I was usually the one fielding the calls. Sometimes he would ring with a specific question, but usually our conversation would slip into a more general discussion of the men’s or women’s college basketball season, or the NBA, or other sports. We were both huge sports fans. We also began to talk about other shared areas of interest, like healthy eating and homeopathic remedies. Eventually, Mr. Cosby—everyone around the office called him that, or Mr. C.—began to ask me a few questions about myself. When he heard that I had been a communications major and had once considered getting into broadcasting, he offered to help, which I thought was kind. He arranged for me to talk to a few media industry executives, suggested I take acting lessons, and advised me to get a headshot for job applications.
While he never invited me to call him Bill or talked to me about his personal life, I became increasingly comfortable with Mr. C. He loved to tease me about my Canadian accent and would work “eh” and “out and about” into his sentences whenever possible. And he always found a way to make me laugh, sometimes simply by speaking to me in what I thought of as his Jell-O Pudding Pop voice. He also loved to offer me advice. When I was on the road with the team, he’d suggest restaurants I should try or sights I should see. He had, after all, been just about everywhere in the States. He also seemed genuinely interested in my family. When he heard that I would be returning to Toronto for Christmas, he asked a number of questions about them and about our family traditions. Later, he offered me tickets so my parents could see him perform at an upcoming Toronto show. And during our phone calls, he’d often inquire about my folks, especially my mother. “How’s Mom doing?” he’d say. I was touched by his thoughtfulness.
As the months unfolded, he extended a number of invitations. I went to a couple of large dinner parties at his home in the affluent Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park. I attended a blues concert in New York with a group he’d put together. And I travelled to a First Nations reservation in Connecticut where he was performing at a casino. By the time a year or so had passed, I considered him a friend and a grandfatherly mentor. But there were a few strange moments that should perhaps have given me more pause than they did.
Excerpted from The Moment: Standing Up to Bill Cosby, Speaking Up for Women by Andrea Constand. Copyright © 2021 Andrea Constand. Published by Viking Canada, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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