I have been a Lakers fan since I started watching basketball back in 1987 at the age of five and I think Kobe Bryant is the most talented basketball player in the NBA. I grew up less than five miles from Great Western Forum and my father swears that he bleeds purple and gold.

Nevertheless, my loyalty to the team and to my favorite player does not compel me to discredit the victim in this case and proclaim Kobe’s innocence.

While it is true that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, that only means that the burden of proof falls on the prosecution to convict Kobe Bryant. The jury must return a verdict of not guilty if the prosecution fails to adequately demonstrate the guilt of the defendant. It does not mean that we must assume that Kobe is innocent, and therefore the victim is dishonest. In fact, the principle does not even apply to the general public, but instead is restricted to the realm of the courtroom, and to the deliberation of the jury in particular.

Furthermore, the opinions of those not directly involved in the case have no influence on the verdict, and are therefore irrelevant except in one aspect.

The fact that there are so many outspoken proponents for the innocence of Kobe Bryant makes it harder for rape victims to come forward and report their crimes. Sexual assault is already one of the most underreported crimes in the country because of its low conviction rate and the shame associated with being dominated and violated by another human being. The assumption of innocence at the societal level only serves to discourage rape victims from reporting because they feel that nobody will believe them.

Why do so many people believe Kobe is innocent anyway? People claim to know that Kobe would not commit such a heinous crime and cite his record as an outstanding citizen and excellent sportsman. What do we really know about Kobe Bryant’s personal life? There was little available information before this past summer, but there are some intimate details that are now common knowledge. It is a well-known fact that he cheated on his wife who just gave birth to his only child and publicly humiliated her in the process. The truth is that there is so much more that is unknown about Kobe’s character than what is known. Therefore, assumptions about his capacity or desire to commit such a crime are without foundation.

While it is unfair to ask individuals to avoid making judgments about parties in a court case, it is not unreasonable to expect those decisions to be made after the facts have been presented. This case highlights the fact that rape victims are almost automatically discredited when they decide to report their case. The “supporters” of Kobe Bryant made their decision about his innocence and the dishonesty of the victim before the evidence was even available. The woman in question was labeled as a gold-digger, slut and manipulator and was crucified before the arraignment even took place.

Why is it that this woman is at fault because she went to Kobe’s room late at night? Should she have an obligation to have sex with him because she paid him a visit? Even if we assume that she found him attractive and wanted to have sex with him, she still has the right to change her mind.

Many of us would not be where we are today were it not for the simple freedom of changing one’s mind.

The law upholds the right of individuals to change their minds, even in the case of consensual sex. There is legal precedent that states that if a woman consents to sex, but then changes her mind during intercourse, the act must stop. Failing to respect the choice of a woman in that circumstance is considered rape.

This case along with all other high profile rape cases allow society the opportunity to show rape victims that we are receptive and supportive, yet more often than not we see the victim demonized which only further complicates the process of getting rapists convicted. If we truly feel that rape is a horrible crime, we must create a social climate that encourages rape victims to come forward and identify their attackers.

Adam Barr is a junior in the College.

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