Fear of media may prevent prosecution | VailDaily.com

Fear of media may prevent prosecution

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” The fading from memory of the Kobe Bryant case may have something to do with more sexual assaults being prosecuted in Eagle County this year compared to past years.

More people are reporting sexual assaults now the international attention attracted by the basketball star’s case ” which was dismissed when his accuser refused to testify ” is long gone, said Mark Hurlbert, Eagle County district attorney.

One woman told the District Attorney’s Office that news coverage from Bryant’s trial made her wary of reporting her assault, Hurlbert said.

Based on the numbers, Hurlbert thinks other woman were afraid that newspapers would write stories about their sexual histories and drug use, as happened in the Bryant case.

But an overwhelming majority of sexual assault media coverage does not mention personal details of victims’ lives, he said.

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Whether a woman feels her privacy will be protected is a key factor in her decision to report a sexual assault, said Joanne Balkan, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Just because more sex assaults are being prosecuted does not mean that more sexual assaults are taking place, but the increased number of prosecutions is good news, she said.

“I think this is a really important milestone,” she said.

A sexual assault hotline in Boulder County received about 30 percent fewer calls during the Bryant case and the college football team’s recruiting scandal, said Janine D’Anniballe, executive director of Moving to End Sexual Assault of Boulder.

Many women told employees that they were afraid the media would damage their reputations if they reported their sexual assaults to police, she said.

“They said they thought they would be treated like Lisa Simpson or the woman in the Kobe case,” D’Anniballe said.

Now the hotline receives as many calls as it did before those cases, she said.

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