So the circus that is the criminal proceedings against Kobe Bryant has come to an end. A civil suit remains, but the alleged victim has dropped out of the criminal case.
I'm not going to try to guess what really happened on that night last summer. I've never claimed to be a judge, and the sensationalized media coverage during the past year has done far more to increase ratings for various news outlets than it has to provide clear, unbiased information.
For anyone who spent the last year in a coma, let me summarize. In June of 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old employee of the Colorado hotel where he was staying. Since then, the alleged victim's name and photo have been released to the public. She has been harassed and received death threats. Advocates for Kobe Bryant say the woman is only interested in money and attention.
The thing I'm interested in today is the statement Bryant released following his case's dismissal. Specifically this sentence, from about midway through the three-paragraph statement: "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."
Does anyone else see a problem here? I had to read it several times to be sure I understood what I was reading.
Let's break it down.
1. Bryant now admits that the alleged victim did not see the encounter as consensual.
2. Bryant truly believed it was consensual.
I guess the question is, how many people does it take to consent to sex? If it only takes one, Bryant is free and clear.
Call me old-fashioned, but I've always believed consent requires both people to agree. If only one person thinks it's consensual, that's not good enough. I don't care how truly they believe it.
It doesn't matter how much one person believes. Maybe the initial kissing really was consensual. Maybe Bryant misunderstood the signs. If she asked him to stop, maybe Bryant thought she was just playing hard to get. Maybe she wasn't firm enough in telling him to stop.
It doesn't matter. If you're getting ready to have sex with someone, it's your responsibility to make damn sure they want it, too. I don't care if you're male or female, married or single, it's your responsibility to be sure.
I've read and heard a lot of people talk about poor Kobe, put on the stand by a "money-hungry slut who's only after cash and attention." I'm sure these voices will be even louder in the coming months as the civil suit against Bryant moves forward.
Poor Kobe. It's clear from his statement that he regrets the whole incident. And I truly believe that he didn't intend to commit rape. Of course, that doesn't matter either. Whatever happened that night, the larger truth is that very few rapists sit down beforehand and plan to commit rape.
Few rapists are strangers hiding in shadows. They're friends, family members, romantic partners. They're the people we know, and they don't see themselves as rapists any more than we do.
Intent doesn't matter. If I run a red light and kill a pedestrian, does it make any difference that I didn't mean to do it? That I "truly believed" I could make it without hurting anyone? That pedestrian is just as dead.
Later in his statement, Bryant says: "I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."
The implication is clear. She feels that she did not consent. Bryant sees things differently. Sometimes communication isn't clear. Sometimes there are misunderstandings. Sometimes - gasp! - romantic partners don't fully understand one another.
Bottom line: Be sure. Be absolutely certain your partner wants this, too. Be certain you're both in a state of mind where you can reasonably consent. It's your responsibility. It's not your partner's job, it's your job to make absolutely certain.
Do you really want to take the chance? Kobe Bryant probably thought he was having a good time that night. Now he's been arrested, dragged through criminal proceedings and still faces civil charges. Innocent or guilty, this has cost him a great deal of money and has damaged his reputation beyond repair, all because he didn't take the time to be sure this was what she wanted. Because he didn't know whether she wanted it or not.
If only he had known then what he knows now.
Jim Hines is the male outreach coordinator at MSU Safe Place. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.