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The tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people in a helicopter crash has resulted in tributes across the nation. But Kobe’s death has also sparked debates on when is the right time to bring up his 2003 rape case. While some fans were quickly ready to praise Kobe as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, some people felt it was important to make room for Kobe’s mourners as well as survivors of sexual assault.

I feel for #KobeBryant’s wife and children,” writer Nolwazi Tusini tweeted out. “To lose a loved one, so publicly, must be painful.”

Tusini continued: “I also feel deeply for his rape victim. How hurtful and triggering it must be to watch the person who enacted such unspeakable violence on you sanctified. And that is the problem with rape — that we have rendered it ‘unspeakable’. That victims are consistently silenced, as this woman was, in favour of preserving the lives of men who do monstrous things. And then we wonder why perpetrators behave with such impunity.”

 

The conversation caused many people to wonder if Kobe’s rape accuser — who has attempted to remain nameless throughout the years — had any thoughts on Kobe’s death.

Clearly, she was receiving inquiries because her lawyer, John Clune, posted a tweet on Friday that he pinned to the top of his page. “The events of this past Sunday are nothing but enormously tragic,” it read. “And so, while we understand the interest, our client will not be speaking at this time. Thank you for also respecting her privacy.”

 

It seems like the world will have to wait for more info about the accuser’s feelings if she decides to speak at all.

Whatever her choice will be is understandable, considering the media hoopla that occurred at the time of Bryant’s case. According to the Daily Beast, Bryant was visiting the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the Rocky Mountains town of Edwards, Colorado when a 19-year-old front-desk clerk accompanied him on a tour of the property. After a series of events, Bryant and the accuser eventually made it back to his room where she says he raped her.

Bryant, who was 24 at the time, was charged with one count of sexual assault and false imprisonment. In July 2003, Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, held a press conference at Staples Center where he admitted to committing adultery, however, he said he was “innocent” of assault.

Bryant’s case never made it to trial, however. On September 1, 2004, one week before opening statements were to be heard, the case was dismissed after the accuser told the court that she wouldn’t testify. Her decision came after months of having her name dragged through the mud by the media and after leaks from the case caused people to question her story.

Instead of going to a criminal trial, the woman filed a separate civil suit against Bryant and had agreed to the dismissal of the sexual assault charge against him if he issued an apology to his accuser. Bryant agreed and his apology was read in court by Bryant’s attorney. It read in part:

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter. I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado.”

The civil suit was eventually settled in March 2005 with terms that were undisclosed.

Since Kobe’s death, some folks in the media have received backlash for bringing up the case at all. Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted a link to the 2016 Daily Beast article covering Bryant’s rape case just hours after news hit that he died. The move sparked a wave of backlash and even death threats, according to Sonmez. The Post subsequently placed Sonmez on “administrative leave” sparking a huge debate on when is the right time to bring up Bryant’s rape case. The conversation has continued a week after Kobe’s death.

But it appears his actual accuser will sit this one out as folks continue to grapple with Bryant’s legacy and the realities of rape culture.

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