Interview with Kristen Gibbons Feden, Esq.
2018 Shining Star Leadership Awardee
Special Prosecutor in Bill Cosby's Sexual Assault Retrial
VRLC: You are quoted in The New York Times as saying that you are “a very emotional person. That can be a flaw, but it can also be used as a tool.” How did this “tool” aid you in working on behalf of victims?
Feden: I am an emotional person and always have been. Everyone has emotions, but not everyone trusts their emotions to guide their way, especially when their intellect has not completely traced out the path. I have had to do this both personally and professionally. I may not know why, but I have a deep and unwavering love for those who are most vulnerable, especially those who have been victims of sexual assault. That love drives me to work so hard for them. It drives me to focus on the wholeness of their struggle and try to be a comfort for them or, when they need it, their weapon. I try to use my love as a tool to guide me to help these strong people find any additional strength they need. Whether that means dancing to Beyoncé with them outside of the courtroom while waiting for a verdict or just holding their hand in a quiet moment before a fierce storm. I believe that love takes many forms, including anger. Sometimes, instead of a comforting hand to hold, a survivor needs a fist to strike out for them so that they know they are not alone. Therefore, i have learned to trust my anger, so long as it’s guided by love. Did I get angry during the Cosby trial? Yes, I did. I got angry when the defense attorney attempted to shame the female witnesses called to testify, and I certainly got angry when the defendant started laughing during the description of the suffering of his victims. This is who I am. I am an emotional person who advocates with passion for those that she loves- and I pray that never changes.
VRLC: What do you think the impact of this conviction, regardless of the sentencing, will mean for sexual assault victims? What do you think it will mean for non-celebrity cases within Sex Crimes Units across the country?
Feden: On April 26, Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault by twelve men and woman, of various ages, races and backgrounds. These people were, in many ways randomly selected, and vetted only for objectivity. These twelve men and women were exposed to all of the techniques used throughout our history to blame and shame survivors of sexual assault. For example, in her closing statement, the defense attorney made crude comments about the witnesses who had found the courage to come forward and scoffed at Cosby’s main accuser. In addition to shaming and blaming the victims, perpetrators have long benefited from the internal struggle experienced by their victims, triggered by the intense trauma of sexual assault. This struggle often leads to actions and reactions that are not “rational” in the way someone who is blessed with a feeling of safety, free from such trauma, would define the term. Victims are often interrogated as to why they hid the act, did not report “soon enough” or saw their attacker again. While these acts may appear irrational at first, in the context of such trauma they cease to appear irrational and, for the individual victim, can be seen as necessary reactions to survive mentally, spiritually and physically. That’s why it is so important that in this trial the jury was open to understanding the effects and “rationality” of a victim of trauma. Twelve men and women were able to understand the struggle to survive that Andrea went through and they believed her. They weren’t fooled by the shaming techniques of the defense, or swayed by the celebrity and power of the defendant. This represented a measurable change in our society. Real evidence that time is, in fact, up.