Standing outside the courtroom where Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and molesting a woman, Lili Bernard wept and asked a reporter to pinch her. She felt like she was dreaming.
Cosby’s conviction on Thursday was only for accusations made by one woman — Andrea Constand, whom a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, jury found was sexually violated by Cosby at his home in 2004 — but Bernard and other accusers who were in the courtroom or watching around the country saw it as a major milestone in the burgeoning #MeToo movement.
"It's also a victory for all sexual assault survivors, female and male. It's a victory for womanhood," Bernard said. "I thank the jury so much for positioning themselves on the right side of history. I just want to hug them."
Bernard says Cosby drugged and raped her in the early 1990s. Dozens more women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct and abuse over decades, going back to the era when he was a popular and powerful comedian. Cosby has denied the allegations, including the charges of aggravated indecent assault he was convicted of.
Many of Cosby's accusers have said that, for years, they felt unable to come forward with their stories and stayed silent because they wouldn't be believed. The #MeToo movement was aimed at ending that fear of speaking up, and it gained steam as Bill Cosby was first brought to trial in 2017. But the trial ended in a hung jury.
Bernard said Thursday that the mistrial left her with "a tremendous sense of disappointment," but Cosby's conviction on all three counts has redeemed her faith in humanity.
"What the #MeToo movement is saying is that women are worthy of being believed," Bernard said.
Renowned attorney and women's rights champion Gloria Allred, who represented dozens of Cosby's accusers, said Thursday's verdict made her happier than any other in her 42-year career.
"We are so happy that finally we can say that women are believed, and not only on #MeToo but in a court of law where they were under oath, where they testified truthfully, where they were attacked, where they were smeared, where they were denigrated, where there were attempts to discredit them," Allred said.
She was joined by Bernard and other of Cosby's accusers, many of whom sat through many days of the two-week retrial.
They cheered when Allred proclaimed, "Bill Cosby, three words for you: guilty, guilty, guilty!"
Victoria Valentino, who says Cosby sexually assaulted her in 1969, said she was grateful to the jury and insisted the #MeToo women is not going away: "We are now part of the tsunami of women's power and justice. We are not shutting up and we are not going away. Get over it."
The jurors all indicated they were aware of #MeToo but said before the trial they could remain impartial. Cosby's lawyers slammed #MeToo, calling Cosby its victim and likening it to a witch hunt or a lynching.
The verdict resonated for other major figures in the movement.
Its founder, Tarana Burke, tweeted about footage of Bernard and other women walking from the courtroom stunned and in tears after the verdict was read.
"This made my cry," Burke said.
Rose McGowan, who has accused disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape, said she was "profoundly happy" to see Cosby's survivors crying tears of relief.
"Cosby is guilty. I’m sorry if you loved a lie. His victims can now exhale. Thank you judge and jury. Thank you society for waking up," McGowan tweeted.
Weinstein hasn't yet faced charges based on McGowan's accusations or the many others from women who have spoken out since the #MeToo movement began, and he has denied them, like Cosby did. But police departments in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere have confirmed they are investigating allegations, which could lead to the next big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.
Liz Lane and The Associated Press contributed to this report.