Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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The Value of a Good Name

The press is once again abuzz with the alleged sexual misconduct
of a celebrity. But this time it isn’t Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton,
Michael Jackson or any of the other usual suspects. No, it’s Kobe
Bryant, someone who has worked long and hard to maintain an
untarnished name that glitters with dignity.

Bryant has already admitted to adultery: he
did indeed have sexual intercourse with a 19-year-old Colorado
woman. But he maintains his innocence when it comes to the
allegation of rape; his defense is that the rendezvous was
consensual.

The case promises to be a classic instance of
he-said/she-said. And it is cases like this that make the 6th
amendment crucial to the American justice system: Kobe Bryant has
the right to confront his accuser in a court of law.

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But Colorado, like many other states, has a
“victim shield” law that prohibits Bryant from confronting his
accuser’s credibility on grounds of her sexual history.

The intention of this law is definitely noble:
to prevent rape victims from the embarrassment of having to discuss
their sexual history. But with the statute comes a fundamental
problem: in the United States, defendants are considered innocent
until proven guilty. Therefore, in cases where the question is not
whether the right rapist is being charged but, rather, whether the
act was consensual, any presumption that the accuser is a “victim”
is a presumption that the sexual act was indeed rape.

If Bryant really is to be considered innocent
until proven guilty, his right of confrontation must extend to
sexual matters when the allegation is one of sexual wrongdoing.

Some might argue that the issue is moot
because anyone can be raped, whether they live a life of
promiscuity or one of innocence. But the truth is that a reckless
lifestyle comes at a high price when matters of credibility are
raised. For example, many are rushing to the defense of Bryant, an
athlete who has earned his squeaky clean reputation. But would his
following be as strong if he were Tyson, Clinton or Jackson? Plato,
in the voice of Socrates, once wrote, “The way to gain a good
reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” And the
truth is that when it comes to a he-said/she-said matter, each
party is only as credible as their reputation is strong.

Another key counter-argument is that one’s
sexual history really has no bearing on an isolated sexual
incident. But don’t underestimate what can be learned from
someone’s sexual history. Consider Bryant’s accuser. She supposedly
delivered food to his room long after room service was closed. Now
suppose she has used such late-night room visits as a means of
seduction in the past. Suppose that she has attempted to seduce
athletes in the past. Suppose that she has a history of sleeping
with men who all have a similar physical profile and that it
happens to match Bryant’s appearance.

Juries consist of thinking citizens of the
republic. If one’s sexual history does not suggest the possibility
of consensual activity under the circumstances, a jury will have no
choice but to dismiss it as irrelevant. In fact, if someone’s
sexual history is totally inconsistent with the facts of the
rendezvous, that history will only serve to bolster their
credibility.

Rape is a crime punishable by life
imprisonment. When it comes down to he-said/she-said circumstances,
one should not have to run the risk of serving out their remaining
days on earth behind bars because a court wanted to protect an
accuser from blushing on the stand about questions deriving from a
past which he or she has chosen.

           

Mac VerStandig
([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in rhetoric and
economics.

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