Though we’ll never really know what happened in Bryant’s room that night, throughout my reporting, sexual-assault experts had told me that in the hours after a date rape, many victims feel so much confusion and shame over what happened that they often need to be told by a third party that they were, in fact, assaulted. “Women call all the time with stories about how they agreed to certain sexual acts but didn’t want to do others,” said Patricia Giggans, executive director of the Los Angeles Commission on Assault Against Women. “They consented to oral sex but not to intercourse. Or they said ‘yes’ to sex but not to anal sex. But they still feel guilty and blame themselves for leading the other person on. So we have to remind them that if it was done against their will, it’s sexual assault.”
With coaching like that, it’s not hard to imagine how Bryant’s accuser could have turned what was at the very least an awkward sexual encounter into something far more serious. Nor is it hard to see how parents largely clueless about their daughter’s sexual proclivities could hear her tale and immediately conclude the same. Combine that with a bevy of physical evidence linking Bryant to the woman and a videotaped interview in which he at first denies even having sex with her, and it’s also not hard to see why the district attorney felt that, well, if he quacks like a duck . . .
Meanwhile, with the help of Bryant’s $12 million, 65-person legal-defense team, his attorneys played the same ducky deduction game on the accuser. She had mental problems? Had sex with three other guys just before she met Bryant? As far as they were concerned, she certainly walked like a duck!
In the end, however, it was us in the media who quacked the loudest, overwhelming a small-town judicial system the entire annual prosecutorial budget of which amounts to a mere fraction of the multiple millions that everyone from The New York Times to Celebrity Justice devoted to covering the case. And while court administrators were clearly to blame for repeated mistakes that thrice revealed the accuser’s name and e-mailed damning transcripts from closed hearings, it’s clear enough that we had a big role in forcing such errors.
Indeed, some believe the accuser finally pulled the plug only after a Denver TV station reported that it had received a copy of the entire witness list, including her name, just days before the trial was to start. If that’s true, then we only have ourselves to blame for the Bryant trial’s lame-duck ending: a woman tarred and feathered, a superstar plucked of his plumage and a Kobe Bryant Celebriduck that — like Kobe’s dwindling endorsements — now sells for $3.97 (a third its original price) on Amazon.com.