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Andrea Constand: The Lesbian Accuser Who Took Down Bill Cosby

Andrea Constand

Cosby's conviction turned on Andrea Constand's case and the out former pro basketball player told her story with inspiring bravery. 

Before the national reckoning around sexual harassment and abuse that prompted the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, Andrea Constand -- whose case led to a jury finding Bill Cosby guilty of sexual assault on Thursday -- came out publicly in 2015 as a lesbian to challenge her attacker's assertion that he knew how to read the desires of the women he assaulted. The police report she filed at the time of the rape indicated that although he'd made overtures to her, she had no interest in a "romantic relationship" with him but that she thought of him as a "mentor" with whom she had a "sincere friendship."

A former employee of the basketball program at Cosby's alma mater, Temple University, where she met Cosby, Constand, 45, told her story for the first time in a courtroom last summer in a trial that left the jury deadlocked. Despite Cosby's attorney's attempts to drag her reputation, she told her story again in the retrial that just ended with the jury finding him guilty on three counts of drugging and sexually assaulting her, The New York Times reported.

Constand, who suffered from flashbacks and scream-filled nightmares following the attack (according to her mother Gianna Constand), first filed suit against Cosby in 2005. She alleged that he had drugged and raped her in 2004, which ended in a settlement for an undisclosed amount that was bound by a confidentiality agreement. Cosby's attorneys accused her of breaking the agreement through two vague tweets in 2015 in which she simply wrote "Yes," and "Sir!" Despite Cosby's attempts to silence her through his attorneys, she held her line and fought back.

The former basketball star who played pro in Sicily before landing a job at Temple, rose up in the face of Cosby's attorneys gunnng for her again in the recent trial, where they painted her as an unstable money-grubber who was merely looking for a payout, despite her life and career having been thrown into upheaval.

Of the more than 60 women who accused the once-beloved comic of drugging, raping, and abusing them, Constand had the only case for which the statute of limitations had not run out, which left her battling in a Pennsylvania courtroom not only for herself but on behalf of all of his accusers last summer, and again this spring. Several other women he'd allegedly assaulted were allowed to testify this time but his conviction turned on Constand's case.

It was Constand's story and her grit in retelling the gruesome tale of how he drugged her and waited for her to become completely impaired before penetrating her with his penis and fingers that eventually led to Cosby's conviction.

"I was not able to do a thing to fight back," she testified this week after reliving the details of her assault for the country to hear.

A native of Ontario, Canada, Constand arrived in the United States following great success as one of that country's top-rated high school basketball players with a record of averaging 30 points per game. She'd landed a full scholarship to the University of Arizona where she played for the Wildcats before heading to Italy to play for her home country.

"I'm on a mission," Constand said in 1997 as she set off to represent Canada's team in the World University Games in Italy. "First to help Canada do well, then to play basketball in Italy, and finally crack a spot on a team in the WNBA."

Following an 18-month stint in Europe, Constand landed in Toronto in 1999 to train for a spot in the WNBA when Temple University's basketball coach at the time, Dawn Staley, recruited her as a director of operations for the women's team. Constand arrived at Temple in 2001 and threw herself into her job before meeting Cosby a year later in 2002.

Despite joining the athletic department at Temple with hopes of opening up new pathways in her career, Constand left the job in 2004, about four months after the assault, and returned to Canada to become a massage therapist, her dreams of ever making the WNBA dashed at the hands of a serial predator.

On Thursday, after Cosby's guilty verdict came down -- with the possibility that he could spend up to 30 years in jail for his crime -- Constand left the courtroom leaning on the shoulders of loved ones and smiling.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist