Lack of justice for Bryant’s accuser

It doesn’t really matter how much Bryant ends up writing her a check for.

More people falsely report their own death than file a false report alleging sexual assault.” – FBI.

On July 1, 2003 a 19-year-old Colorado woman came forward and said NBA superstar Kobe Bryant sexually assaulted her. The assault allegedly occurred at a lodge near Vail, Colo., where the accuser worked and Bryant was staying ahead of knee surgery.

Two weeks later, the married Bryant admitted to the sex, but denied any use of force. Well, besides the bruise on her neck – but hey, Kobe said that was his “thing” – pushing a girl over a chair and holding her neck from behind, and the cops would have to ask his other girls about that, specifically “Michelle” from Virginia. And, oh yeah, there was the whole her-blood-on-his-shirt thing.

On Sept. 1, after 15 months of legal wrangling, with a civil lawsuit still pending in federal court, the accuser dropped the criminal charges against Bryant. Could you really blame her for not wanting to testify?

A 206-page medical and psychological history of her was “mistakenly” e-mailed to the news media, detailing two apparent suicide attempts and accounts of her sexual past. The defense “accidentally” used her full name six times at a hearing, and then the court “forgot” to withdraw her name from transcripts posted on a state Web site, thus revealing her identity to anyone who can use a search engine.

It doesn’t really matter how much Bryant ends up writing her a check for. There have been at least two deranged fans arrested for threatening her life, out of hundreds of threats received by her mother. Nothing can make up for the vast campaign of character assassination she has gone through.

Media and strangers hound her wherever she goes. She’s been branded a slut, psychopath and gold digger by sports bloggers and conservative talk-radio hosts. Bryant is still known first and foremost as a basketball star, not as a serial adulterer. He gets move on with his highpowered life. She doesn’t.

The court’s mistakes have made only the accuser’s life miserable, yet the judge did little to deter or punish the disclosure of constitutionally protected information to the public, poisoning an already suspect jury pool.

Why the intense, unrelenting focus on the accuser in rape cases? What is the relevance of her sex life before and after the incident? There is always a torrent of questions about her credibility, her mental state. What about his? Bryant lied to investigators at first, saying they didn’t even kiss and she was just “showing him around” the hotel room. Minutes later, he was graphically describing pulling her skirt up and her panties down.

“We live in a society where rape is the only crime where we blame the victim,” said Kathy Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes.

Why do we doubt the stories of women who say they are raped?

Even if someone can play basketball and seemed like a nice guy, can’t we still hold him accountable? Is abusing women a perk of being an athlete? Who pays a higher price – him for lost millions in bad publicity (and I’m-sorry-baby jewelry for his wife), or us, for increasingly pitiful standards of our heroes?

Sports fans might have a high tolerance for the misconduct of athletes. I don’t. The court of public opinion is in session, and the rehabilitation of Bryant’s image will take a lot longer than his knee did. To me, there’s a certain justice in that.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]