Sunni Welles was a 17-year-old virgin when Bill Cosby drugged and raped her in 1965.
But to hear her talk about it late Tuesday afternoon, it seemed like it was yesterday.
“You have, in essence, destroyed so much of my life,” said Welles as she fought off tears. “Not only who I am today at 70 years old but who I was and could have been or would have become in this world.”
Welles was one of eight Cosby accusers who gave victim-impact statements at a press conference organized by Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s victim advocate, since they were not allowed to give them at Cosby’s sentencing.
One by one they told their terrible stories. Some said they forgave him. Others said they never would. But all of them agreed that what he had done to them changed them forever.
“You stole my trust,” said Therese Serignese, one of seven women represented by attorney Joseph Cammarata suing him for defamation. “You stole my body and my belief that good things could happen… You caused me lifelong harm.”
The defamation lawsuits had been on hold pending the outcome of the criminal trial but will now be able to proceed, Cammarata said Tuesday.
“I decided to give a voice to these women,” he said. “They are going to be able to prove they are truthful people.”
Cosby, 81, was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, now 45, in April. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to three to ten years in state prison after a two-day hearing. He was handcuffed and escorted out of the courthouse by sheriff’s deputies who took him to the Montgomery County prison in Eagleville for processing before turning him over to the state prison system.
Cosby’s wife, Camille, issued a statement after the sentencing saying that they intend to appeal.
Only Andrea Constand, her parents and sister were allowed to submit victim-impact statements for sentencing under state law.
Welles, who met Cosby through her mother, who was an agent in Hollywood, said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has needed counseling and therapy for years. She could only refer to him as “BC” instead of his full name.
“It is because of you, BC, and men like you that I’ve lost trust in people and men particularly,” she said, weeping. “It is because of you I have been unable to sustain any deep intimacies or healthy relationship my life or to have the sexual intimacy that should be a part of any relationship or marriage or coupling.”
Visual artist Lili Bernard spoke of her suicide attempts, night terrors, debilitating panic attacks and PTSD after being drugged and raped by Cosby in the early 1990s. She said Cosby had threatened her life if she told anyone what he had done to her.
“Bill Cosby has taken away years of peace from me,” she said. “Fear consumed my life.”
Stacey Pinkerton had never spoken publicly about being drugged and raped by Cosby in 1986 before Tuesday. She traveled from Europe to attend his sentencing. She sat with fellow survivors Lise Lotte-Lublin, Chelan Lasha and ex-model Janice Dickinson during the sentencing.
“No matter what, these things stay with you,” she said. “It affects your health and your trust. I tried to block it out and kept going…The 32 years I had endured finally came to closure this week. I’m please I came to the sentencing and am able to take something negative and turn it into something positive.”
Some of the women urged other sexual assault victims to not stay silent as so many of them had done.
“If it happened to you or a loved one, please report it to law enforcement so it doesn’t happen to someone else,” said Pinkerton.