Mar 082005
Authors: JP Eichmiller

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and his accuser came to an agreed settlement last week for an undisclosed amount of money. If that is news to you, count yourself blessed for not having witnessed the debacle that the two have made of our state's criminal court system.

More than a year and a half after the accusations were brought to the public's attention, there is little to do but scratch our collective heads and wonder. Someone has lied, and someone has also gotten away with it.

If Kobe Bryant did what his accuser has claimed, then our society as a whole is much worse off. This would mean there is another freed millionaire athlete walking the street, guilty of a crime yet above the reaches of the law – O.J. redux if you will.

Or perhaps the accuser is lying, drawing the public and resources of our state into her web, all for personal gain. While her being guilty of lying would constitute a much lesser crime, the accusation's seriousness, along with the repercussions for future victims, is no small deal.

But we will never know the truth and we are all worse for it. Perhaps Bryant is a sexual predator or perhaps he is simply an adulterer. Maybe the accuser is an innocent victim of rape or maybe she is a manipulative, misguided young woman, eager for attention and money.

With all of the stargazing and dirt digging surrounding this scandal, the seriousness of the crime in question has sometimes been forgotten. After murder and child molestation, there is perhaps no worse act that one human can enact on another than rape. The effects, both psychological and physical, must have an impact on the victim that is hard to imagine. The agony of the families involved is surely overbearing, having to watch a loved one recant a moment of vulnerability and pain.

So I wonder how it is that the accuser and her family can be satisfied with last week's conclusion. Imagine for yourself the feelings drawn up had your mother, or your sister, or your daughter informed you of their own rape. Would you be happy walking away with a small fraction of the attacker's wealth, having done little more than smearing his reputation to the public and getting him in some hot water with the Mrs.?

Or would you never, ever be satisfied until you had seen the perpetrator brought to justice, humiliated in front of all who had revered him and exposed as the sexually deviant monster that he truly is. Watch him be led away from his family and Newport Beach mansion, a branded felon forever, and once the bars are firmly locked behind him begin the process of destroying him financially. The accuser chose the former option, walking away a richer if not better person.

Make no mistake; I am no fan of Bryant. The man cheated on his wife while she sat at home, nursing his newborn baby. He has always portrayed an air of unfounded egotism. The man couldn't make a go of it with a Buddhist coach or the greatest center of our time. He doesn't play D and his me-first game does little to elevate those around him.

Yet without proof I would be hesitant to cast the first stone at the man. The line between rape and consensual sex can only be drawn by the two involved at the moment. The accuser had her chance to stand up to her alleged attacker and instead chose to take the money and run. Kobe will return to his former life, slightly lighter in the wallet but not much worse for the wear. In a year or two the endorsements will start to come back and all will be forgotten.

The precedent that has been reinforced here is that money solves all life's problems. Rather than face a public deposition into his sexual history and improprieties, Bryant broke out the checkbook and ended the civil suit against him. How the accuser and her lawyers put a price tag on being raped I will never know.

JP Eichmiller is a senior journalism major. His column runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.

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