Recent media crazes surrounding two prominent alleged sexual assault cases, the rape accusations brought against NBA star Kobe Bryant in 2003 and the ongoing Duke lacrosse team rape case, have brought rape and sexual assault into the national spotlight.
But with the media exposure involved in these cases, the true reality of sexual assault and rape in the United States has been neglected, twisted and, ultimately, done a disservice by these media circuses.
Following the accusation by a Colorado hotel employee that she was raped by Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in July 2003, a virtual ‘rape frenzy’ erupted around the All-Star and his accuser.
During the criminal trial, paparazzi flooded the small town of Eagle to catch a glimpse of the indicted NBA star entering the courthouse.
Both Bryant and his accuser were tried in the media’s court of public opinion. Bryant was portrayed as a rapist, an adulterer, a celebrity who thinks he can get away with anything.
As a result, Bryant lost endorsement deals and his NBA jersey sales numbers dropped to all-time lows. Poor Kobe.
Bryant’s accuser was accused of sexual promiscuity in addition to her name being leaked indiscriminately to the press.
This woman began receiving death threats and intimidation and when the criminal case against Bryant was dismissed, calls of “gold-digger” became more prevalent.
Could she be faking? Do you think that she consensually had sex with Bryant and then changed her story to get paid some ‘hush’ money because he’s famous?
Bryant’s accuser was painted as a female artist of male celebrity entrapment: A siren intent on capturing her one opportunity – for fame and wealth by accusing a basketball superstar of sexual assault.
Similar questions have surrounded the Duke lacrosse rape scandal, where recent allegations of sexual assault by three members of the Duke lacrosse team brought by a black female exotic dancer have aggravated racial tensions and diminished a once prominent team.
The remainder of last year’s season was canceled, team members became despised by the public, their head coach resigned, three of the team’s players were indicted on charges of first-degree rape, sexual assault, and kidnapping.
But when rape charges were dropped by the district attorney on account of a change in the timeline by the alleged victim, wristbands adorned with the slogan “INNOCENT” spread like wildfire throughout the Duke campus in support of the players.
The alleged victim’s mental health, as well as drug and alcohol history were brought into question in the media, and public opinion surrounding the Duke lacrosse players involved has swung against the “questionable” story of the female dancer.
Publicized sexual assault cases like the Kobe Bryant and Duke lacrosse cases engender a rape-supportive society and reinforce victim-blaming stereotypes by encouraging skepticism over an alleged victim’s claim of sexual assault.
In both the Bryant and Duke cases, the alleged victims’ sexual, mental, as well as drug and alcohol histories have been brought into question, their post-rape examinations have been closely scrutinized, and their inconsistencies with “normal” physical symptoms of rape criticized.
Let’s make one thing very clear: there is no justification for sexual assault. Sexual assault cannot be defended on the basis of clothing worn, the state of a victim’s intoxication or sexual promiscuity, a history of drug and alcohol abuse or a lack of injuries “consistent with rape.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation asserts that less than two percent of reported sexual assaults are false claims. They do not have a “celebrity sexual assault” figure.
There are no qualifications for reporting a sexual assault, no criteria that an alleged victim must satisfy for their claim of sexual assault to qualify as a legitimate one.
Reporting a sexual crime is a very victimizing process in itself. A post-rape examination is very invasive. And even when a sexual assault is reported (the Department of Justice estimates less than five percent of assaults are reported), plea bargains and other litigative procedures reduce the severity of the assaulter’s crime.
The Bryant and Duke cases distort the reality of sexual assault today: It happens, it is not reported 95 percent of the time, and pretty much all the time, bastards get away. Don’t let the media fool you, sexual assault is real and claims of assault are never unjustified.
Drew Haugen is a senior International Studies major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.