Monday, December 18, 2017

Fathers, Hide Your Daughters

Did you know I had a blog before there were such things as blogs? Neither did I, yet before I became a reluctant blogger I tried two brief stints as an enthusiastic one. My first attempt was at the end of the last century (I’ve waited all my life to say that phrase) and was merely a column on my personal Web site (remember when people had personal Web pages in the days before Facebook and MySpace?). It was entitled “rAnts and Raves” because it had these cool JavaScript ants crawling across the Web page. I know, but it was 90s and the Internet was new.

I ran across several of these posts locked in stasis in a time capsule and I thought I would share them with you over the next few weeks. Think of it as summer reruns in the fall. My first thought as I reread these words I penned so long-ago was, Wow, the more things change the more they stay the same. My second thought was, Cool, I don’t have to write a blog this week.

Fathers, Hide Your Daughters

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Two weeks ago, I had never heard of Kobe Bryant. Not being a basketball follower, I probably would still not know who he is, had he not been accused by a 19-year-old hotel concierge of raping her. So I have been able to approach the whole Kobe story with an open mind, with no favoritism predisposed toward the generally acknowledged “good boy” of the hoop world. To me, this alleged rape was no more or less important than any of the other 174,000 rapes that occur every year in America. In fact, I’m sure to the 174,000 women who were raped, or the 174,000 men whom they rightly or wrongly accused, the Kobe case is far less important. But since it involves a celebrity, it has become fodder for the TV talking heads, and a subject of national importance second only to the war in Iraq, if one is to judge by the airtime it has received.

So, while acknowledging the accused has a right of a presumption of innocence, I will go out on a limb and make two statements: I think Kobe Bryant is more likely than not a rapist and I think he will not be convicted.

Kobe won’t be convicted because he is a media darling and the public loves him. He apparently has a reputation as “a Nice Guy,” and “a Good Guy.” The phrases gush from the mouths of the TV reporters as they embarrassingly fawn over him. Kobe used his “Good Guy” reputation to his advantage in this case, going so far as to defend himself by stating “You guys know me; I wouldn’t do anything like this!” But what did he mean by this? That nothing happened? Oops, guess Kobe wasn’t paying attention when Bill found out Monica forgot to take the dress to the dry cleaner. Guys, pay attention this time: semen leaves traces, and it appears there was some trace of Kobe’s DNA on the girl. Once the defense was apprised of this in the legal discovery process, Kobe’s story changed. Well, something did happen. There was sexual intercourse, Kobe finally admitted.

But, Kobe says, it was consensual and not rape. Quite possibly true, assuming the girl had agreed to the sex, but then why lie about it for two weeks until faced with the DNA evidence? Kobe’s answer was that he lied because he didn’t want to expose his adultery (Kobe is newly married to a young pregnant wife). Wait a minute, he lied to us, he lied to his wife, he lied to the police, he admits committing a crime (adultery), and he cheated on his pregnant wife with a 19 year-old girl. I thought he was a “Good Guy” who “wouldn’t do anything like this.”

Maybe he didn’t rape her, but Kobe Bryant, likable as he may be to some, is not a “Good Guy,” and it seems he has done many “things like this,” if by that he meant morally wrong things a “Good Guy” wouldn’t do.

But I was still on the fence about his guilt or innocence. Sure, I never bought his “Good Boy” image, and admittedly athletes have higher testosterone than the average male and would be more likely to engage in violent or aggressive behavior (what I’ve dubbed “O.J. Rage”) but what really tilted me to the prosecution side was the defense tactics (aided by the news media).

You can generally tell the defense does not have a defendable case when they use the “misdirection” tactic. Classic misdirection tactics call for the defense attorney to draw attention away from the facts of the case and to a red herring, such as focusing on a racist cop’s use of the word nigger in the O.J. Simpson case (so what if he is racist, that has no bearing on what O.J. did or did not do) or the “crazed cultists riding around in a van did it” defense in the Laci Peterson case (which was one step short of an alien abduction defense).

In rape cases, the usual misdirection tactic is “sully the victim”. Never mind what may have happened, let’s throw mud on the accuser and see how much sticks. The idea is to attack her credibility rather than focus on the physical evidence. The more mud being thrown, the more I start to question the strength of the defense’s case.

So far this week, thanks to anonymous(?) leaks to the TV media, we have learned the girl tried out for American Idol and, like millions of other girls her age, failed to be chosen for that TV talent show. This, we were told, shows us she is obsessed with celebrity and would do anything for her 15 minutes of fame, even tying her name to Kobe Bryant’s celebrity with a false rape accusation. We next learned the teenager had broken up with her boyfriend and taken some sleeping pills and her concerned family called 911. This, we were told, shows she is mentally unstable, a drug abuser, and the subject of “frequent 911 calls.” Now, every teenager who breaks up with a lover may be emotionally distraught (in fact, one might argue the teenage years are nothing but emotional turmoil amidst hormonal imbalance) but to label them with the pejorative term “mentally unstable” is misleading and slanderous, as is the pejorative label “drug abuser” to describe someone taking too many sleeping pills. And somehow a single 911 call morphed into “frequent” calls.

But that’s the whole point: technically accurate but pejorative phrases mixed with exaggeration and overstatement to cast aspersions on the character of the accuser. However, this approach overlooks one thing. For argument’s sake, let’s assume the worst is true: that the girl is unstable and has used drugs (and a lot of teenage girls fit this description); does that preclude her from being raped? Of course not. In Florida, a mentally retarded girl was recently raped and impregnated. Just because a girl has emotional or mental problems, or is a drug user, does not mean she cannot have been raped. The girl could be in a coma and still be raped. The only real issue is, Did the crime of rape occur?

In fact, if she really was an emotionally troubled teenage girl who, star-struck by his celebrity, was taken advantage of by a rich and famous man like Kobe, then the crime is even more heinous. Fathers, hide your daughters; there’s a basketball game tonight!

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