The second I read of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, I was hit with an onslaught of conflicting emotions. The NBA basketball player died in a helicopter crash along with his 14 year old daughter and several others. My immediate reaction was one of deep compassion, as I know firsthand the sea of pain created by an unexpected death of a family member.
As I scrolled through my newsfeed seeing dozens of posts glorifying this NBA athlete, I found my compassion extending not only to him and his family, but to the woman Kobe Bryant raped. I imagined what it was like for her to suffer at the hands of a glorified superstar. I presume a part of her died the day she was raped, even if in body she kept breathing. I envisioned what it was like for her to wake up this morning and read the man who raped her was no longer living. Did she cry? Did she exhale for the first time in more than 15 years?
My sister died on this exact same day 11 years ago. The circumstances were tumultuous. The police classified her death as “suspicious” and until today it remains an unsolved mystery. Those closest to her believe there was foul play. My sister was a survivor of extreme trauma, including rape. When she died the world didn’t cry her name. She was not exalted in the public eye for being the dedicated mother, wife, and survivor she was. She died isolated in agony. Her truth, which only few new, suspended in silence. My sister died a tragic death after living life as a rape victim. Yet Kobe Bryant, having committed rape, is vaunted in his death all because he knew how to handle a basketball.
In the gateway the Me Too movement created many of us are working on up-leveling our consciousness. Part of how we do this is by embracing the truth in whole, not only the feel good parts. This is particularly challenging when those we love have committed unspeakable acts. It is much easier to deny the crimes and perpetuate the silence. Abuse needs silence in order to thrive.
Today I embrace Kobe Bryant as a talented basketball player, a father, and an inspiration to thousands. I also embrace him as a rapist. In doing so it gives permission for the cycle of abuse to complete. When we deny an assault, there is no room for redemption nor forgiveness. This holds both the perpetrator and the preyed hostage. Without acknowledgment, there can’t be acceptance, and without acceptance there can’t be forgiveness.
So while the majority cries out for the death of Kobe Bryant and remembers him only for the good he has done, I refuse to pick and choose. I will remember the fuller truth, and in doing so I will honor everyone involved. I will remember for Koby’s victim and her family. I will remember for my sister and my family. By remembering, as painful as it may be, I am doing my part to eradicate these cycles of abuse.
If you or someone you love is a survivor of sexual assault, there is help for you. Please contact RAINN.
As written in their mission statement:
“RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1–800–656-HOPE, online.rainn.org, and rainn.org/es in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country, and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”