Updated: Jan 29
Kobe Bryant is one of the world’s greatest athletes of all times. He dominated the basketball court all around the world, and broke records and created impossible records. His untimely death, along with his beautiful daughter and others on the plane was tragic and unimaginable. I am in no way trying to take away from those accomplishments because God gave him some amazing talents. However, I do want to explain why myself and other rape victims are triggered by his death and have a hard time reading and hearing all of the positive praises about Kobe Bryant.
In 2003, Kobe Bryant, age 24, was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment of a 19- year old woman. The Prosecutor had DNA evidence, physical bruises on her body and evidence of vaginal tearing. Regardless of the evidence, his victim decided not to testify due to numerous confirmed death threats by his fans, fear that he would not be convicted, and even more fearful that her name would be released to the world. Instead of testifying, she asked if he would make a public apology in court. He apologized to her, his family, and his fans, but did not necessarily admit to sexual assault, only to the fact that he didn’t realize that they were not engaging in consensual sex. Most people don’t admit to their crime but we also have a screwed up justice system where victims are torn a part on the stand and innocent individuals are convicted.
Fame, fortune, and athletic ability can easily buy you the best lawyers to have your case settled financially or receive leniency. We have plenty examples of this, Ben Roethlisberger, Adrienne Peterson, Jameis Winston, and so on. Just because a victim accepts the money does not mean that the individual was innocent or that the person was set up. This simply means that both parties came to an agreement about the case. Do I think people have set up some individuals? To be fair, yes. I have seen cases where people have lied and claimed. However, statically, 1-3 % of all sexual assault reports are intentionally false. The few that have lied, makes it hard on the victims who are telling the truth. This statistic does not include the victims who provide false statements due to fear of their life or other reasons. No one was in the room with Kobe Bryant and his victim, so we never will know the truth so I will not say that he was guilty, just that there was evidence. We all have a right to formulate our own opinion, just don’t be mean and make death threats to someone who does.
A trigger is something that reminds you of an incident in your life. This can be a smell, touch, voice, a movie or an event. Triggers for rape victims or for anyone who has experienced any type of trauma can be horrible. The individual may experience crying, nightmares, depression, migraines, hyper vigilance, mood swings, yelling, and even attempt suicide. The entire case was upsetting for rape victims because once again, they were being reminded of their own personal rape. Many of these rapes were not reported, and if they were, the rapists were not convicted. Its almost as if you are reliving a nightmare over and over again. We have experienced the same triggers during the cases of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Brent Kavanaugh, etc.. We sympathize with the victim and imagine how she was feeling. We continue to see our justice system fail victims and make them out to be the horrible person, instead of holding individuals accountable for their actions. Our society makes the victim out to be a horrible person who must prove that they were violated beyond a reasonable doubt, regardless of the evidence. This injustice is one reason why victims never report to the police or go to court because they are treated as the offender.
Fast forward to his unfortunate death. During the past few days, the news and social media has continuously talked about Kobe Bryant and praising him for his good deeds in the community. Yes, he displayed actions of a stand up citizen, but does it erases the fact that he was accused of rape and that his name reminds victims of his rape. I have personally seen the most hateful posts on social media when someone even mentions something negative about Kobe Bryant. I have seen death threats made when someone mentions the rape. This includes death threats and a suspension of Reporter, Lindsey Ellefson by the Washington Post. All she did was report the news from a fair perspective; the perspective of everyone, not just his fans. Kudos Ms. Ellefson for being a great reporter.
Should he be forgiven? I believe that God forgives everyone if they repent. (You may have a different religious belief.) I also believe that when a person is ready, they should consider forgiving their rapist or anyone that hurts you because its allows them to heal. Forgiveness does not mean that you forget. I have forgiven my rapist and will never bring him to court, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t still have nightmares, and have hard time making personal connections because of my lack of trust. I stayed up wondering most of the night how his victim must feel and if she forgave him. I know many victims who never forgave their rapist, and I truly believe that is a personal choice. Who am I to tell someone to move on with your life? When you mother rapes you for most of your life (yes this article represents the views of men too) its hard to forgive her. When your pastor or priest molest you, its hard to forgive.
I am writing this article not to dishonor Kobe Bryant or to erase his accomplishments. I am writing this article to be the voice for so many victims who are silently crying as they read your comments and as they continuously are reminded of a person that they believe is a rapist. I was silent for a few days, contemplating should I write my opinion. My organization HUSH No More, encourages Survivors all over the world to share their story because they have a right to tell it. We have a right to give our opinion just like you have the right to give your opinion. I will always champion for victims and encourage them to elevate.
In closing, I hope that all victims and survivors can find healthy ways to express how you are feeling and activate your safety plan. Try journaling, writing a poem, singing, coloring, exercising, praying, meditating, or reaching out to a counselor or a friend to discuss how you are feeling. You can also reach out to me if you don’t have anyone that you can trust to talk to. Writing this blog was my healthy way of expressing my thoughts and deciding to HUSH No More and being a Survivor. Please don’t isolate yourself and continue watching the news and social media. You many never get over being raped, but you can get to a healthy place where you can smile again. If you are a victim and you disagree with my writing, I respect your opinion and I am not the voice for all victims, only a few which does not include you.
If the world would show love and kindness, and be respectful towards each other, this would be a better place for us all.
Dr. Vanessa Dunn Guyton the Founder and Executive Director of HUSH No More, a non-profit organization and movement that provides a platform to allow Survivors to share their story and help victims to heal and unleash the shame of their trauma. This platform led to her creating and producing the HUSH No More Documentary, the HUSH No More Book, and “When a Date Turns to Rape.” Her documentary has been shown internationally in Japan, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar to bring awareness to the HUSH Topics. Additionally, she is the CEO of Consulting Experts & Associates, LLC. CEA is a global training consulting firm that assists organizations in improving training and organization effectiveness. Dr. Guyton honorably served in the United States Army as a Human Resource Specialist for ten years. Additionally, she is a credentialed Victim Advocate and has certified over 3,200 Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates. Her training is provided globally to thousands of military organizations, colleges, and corporations on The Hush Topics: sexual assault, sexual harassment, drug-facilitated sexual assault, LGBTQ sexual assault, disabled victims, sex trafficking, suicide prevention, domestic violence, bystander intervention, and refresher training for Victim Advocates. She believes that awareness and knowledge lead to prevention.