Letters

Salon readers say that it's Kobe Bryant -- not his accuser -- who is being unfairly punished by the media.


Salon Staff
November 1, 2003 7:04PM (UTC)

[Read "Did Bonnie Fuller Really Betray Women?" by Rebecca Traister

It is impossible to defend the immoral decision to humiliate Kobe Bryant's accuser. But Ellen Levine of Good Housekeeping mentions a perfectly valid point which begs exploration: shielding a woman's identity in these cases protects the accuser -- but in cases where the accusations are proven to be false, doesn't the negative exposure victimize the man who is wrongfully condemned by an outraged public? Does a false accusation not damage him more than it damages the anonymous accuser? Why must we protect the identity of the accuser while exploiting the identity of the accused? Can't both parties be equally protected until after the trial is over?

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In no way do I condone the horrible crime of rape. But let us not also pretend that false rape accusations do not exist. There are motivations to lie about rape such as the possibility of money, media exposure and gaining an advantage in divorce or custody proceedings.

In the emotional flurry around major rape trials, we often have a presumption of guilt and forget the doctrine of "innocent until proven guilty" which separates freedom from dictatorship. We fail to realize that the system fails to protect men who are raped. We forget that it is possible for women to make false accusations that are impossible for the man to disprove. And we also fail to spot the disadvantages that accused men face when they go through the legal machinery. The purpose of a trial is not to punish the accused, but to determine whether or not a crime took place.

Did Mr. Bryant's accuser deserve this public shaming? Absolutely not. Does Mr. Bryant deserve a similar form of public shaming? Not until after he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

-- James Kaufmann

Salon follows the everyday media in failing to report the news -- the name and face of Kobe Bryant's accuser. Did you suppress Kobe Bryant's name and face? Did it ever cross your mind that to be accused of rape is also publicly humiliating? Suppose he's innocent, will you apologize for having reported his name?

No, you won't, and the reason is because your mission -- most of the time -- is to report the news, not to protect people from controversy.

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The truth (or not) of the story hinges entirely upon whether Bryant's accuser is telling the truth. How can your reader evaluate this, if Salon hides her identity?

But suppose Salon believed her accusations to be false. Would you still hide the face and name of a false accuser? Probably not. So your reader is implicitly led to believe that your omission of the key facts of the story reflects your belief that the suspect is telling the truth. She needs to be protected because she is a Rape Victim.

Just as the hysteria of the early 80's led the public to falsely believe that children never lie about molestation, so Salon assumes that women never lie about sex, even with the prospect of a six-or seven-figure settlement. Thus, to be accused is the same as being guilty.

What happened to the right to openly face one's accusers in a public trial? Fair means Bryant's accusers must put their credibility and reputation on the line along with his.

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Pity that we have to turn to The Globe for professionalism and accuracy.

-- Timothy Usher

Yes, some men are falsely accused of rape.

But this number is miniscule compared to the number of real rape victims who are afraid to come forward, for fear of exactly what is happening to Kobe Bryant's accuser on the cover of the Globe.

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Depending on which statistics you read, only 16 percent to 38 percent of rape victims go to the police. And researchers say the trend is getting worse, with fewer and fewer women willing to risk legal intervention.

Maybe Kobe Bryant's accuser didn't "say no." That is for a jury to decide. In the meanwhile, it's bad enough the tabloids have to hound his every move. (Frankly, I'm not interested.) But why exacerbate the problem by printing out-of-context, inflammatory pictures of his accuser?

If she is revealed as a false accuser, she should face criminal charges and her own public downfall.

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But let the facts be determined by a jury, not a money-hungry tabloid with more ambition than ethics.

-- Karen from Manhattan

While I don't agree with the ridiculous (and dangerous) assertion implied by the Globe cover that since Kobe's accuser dressed provocatively at her prom, that by extension she must have been "asking for it" the night with Kobe, this controversy does bring to light the inherent unfairness toward the accused in rape trials. Everyone is shocked, including Salon, that the Globe would reveal both the name and face of the alleged victim in this trial. If we live in a country that is truly based on being presumed innocent until proven otherwise, why was there not equal shock and horror when Kobe Bryant, who at this point has not been proven guilty of anything except for poor judgment, was revealed to the world as a possible rapist?

If it is wrong to not protect the identity of the accuser in a rape trial, why is there not equal care to not place the ignominious "rapist" label on someone before they have been tried and found guilty of such a horrific crime? By revealing Kobe as a potential "rapist" before he has received his day in court, the media has done him a huge disservice. Win or lose come trial time, Kobe's public persona and reputation has been forever tarnished for a crime that he may very well have never committed. How is that fair? Thus far, Kobe's only admitted transgression has been cheating on his wife, a ballplayer tradition as old as the invention of the round ball itself. Yet, I saw no articles in Salon bemoaning the tabloids or any other media outlet for not protecting Kobe's identity in this rape trial until he had been convicted based on the evidence.

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The Globe proved with their recent cover of Kobe's accuser that they are willing to sell their souls in the name of profit. But they have no more blood on their hands than the publications who outed Kobe as an alleged rapist before he's had a chance to defend himself in court.

-- Dustin Nunnels

While I appreciated your thoughtful summary of responses to the publication of Kobe Bryant's accusers name and photo on the cover of Globe magazine, a crucial point as to why this disclosure is so heinous was omitted. Two people have already been charged with making death threats against his accuser. Given Kobe's popularity and the fanaticism of many sports fans, publishing both the name and photo of this young woman threatens not only her reputation, but her physical safety.

-- Jen Thompson

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As an attorney who has practiced law for 25 years, beginning at a time when women comprised less than 15 percent of the bar, I am constantly amazed at the way women re-victimize themselves in an alleged effort to "protect" women. For example, everyone insists that rape victims should be protected from questions about their role in creating a situation where they got raped because rape is a crime, and you wouldn't ask a robbery victim what he did to get robbed. Then, it the same breath they say, well, you shouldn't identify a victim of rape in the press. Well, why not?

Rape is a crime. A rape victim is a victim of a crime. Papers publish the names of all other crime victims. Women, by insisting that rape victims be treated differently, continue to mythologize the crime. The implied message in not publishing her name is that the victim is "soiled." The choice to be treated "specially" is one of the very things that keeps rape a crime that sullies the name of the victim.

Once women stand up and say "I was raped, and I'm really pissed off about it" like they would if they were mugged or burgled, the whole crime will lose some of the hysteria attached to it, and the chance of a successful prosecution will increase.

As long as it is shrouded in secrecy like some secret shame, the implied message to juries and the public is 'this woman did something wrong.'

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-- Peggy Carey

Kudos to Salon for presenting both sides of the journalistic quandary that exists over whether "victims" should be named or not. However, when your publication refers to Bryant's accuser as a "victim" ("But Seymour ... expressed her own confusion about whether or not journalists should shy away from naming victims"), even when in the paraphrased context of what a source has said, Salon becomes complicit in the perpetuation of a rhetoric that implies the guilt of the accused and the truth of the allegations of the accuser.

-- S.P. Smith


Salon Staff

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