Even in mourning, we have to hold others accountable


Photo credit: Andrea Nebhut

Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

This week, I’ve been thinking of Kobe Bryant’s survivor. I’ve been thinking about his wife, his children, his millions of fans and everyone else who is grieving his and his daughter’s deaths.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about the survivor of his assault and about how the past few days must have been for her. I’ve been thinking about how she must feel so alone in a world that is celebrating a man who ruined her life — in a world where there are people who don’t believe her or who don’t believe her truth deserves to be acknowledged during a time of grief.

In 2003, she dropped charges against Kobe and instead, they settled a lawsuit privately. Kobe apologized to her and clarified that he did not question her motives. But despite that, this woman lives with the experience, and amid the response to his death, she must be reminded of him and of that night.

To see everywhere that your rapist or abuser or assaulter is being admired without acknowledgment of the harm they have done is isolating.

There is space to mourn and to grieve those who influence one’s life. There is space to think fondly of memories one may have with a hero or with someone they have idolized. But in that same space, there must be accountability.

See a person in their totality and hold them accountable. There should not be a dismissal of a person’s harmful actions just because they are remarkable at what they do. You can defend his basketball skills without defending his sexual assault of a woman. You can mourn his death, grieve with his family, think of all of the great things he did in his lifetime and still think of his survivor.

This week, I’m thinking of how Kobe changed and inspired so many people’s lives. He championed young female athletes. He was an ambassador for a nonprofit after-school care program. He raised money for education and health programs. I’m thinking of his family and hoping they find peace among their grief. I’m thinking of the millions of admirers who have lost their hero and hoping they find ways to memorialize his legacy in their lives.

And I’m thinking of the survivor, and I’m thinking of all the other survivors in search of healing. I am hoping they aren’t alone, but I know that many are. This week and every week I trust them, believe them and stand with them.