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Expert: Victims' path rockier than celebrities'

Published March 15, 2007 at midnight

Katelyn Faber received death threats and hate mail. Her sexual history, moral character and reputation were questioned in the court room and in Internet chat rooms.

The stress and pressure of testifying against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in a sexual-assault trial proved too daunting, and since then, Faber has been reduced to a parenthetical phrase (charges against Bryant were dismissed) in most stories about Bryant's return to prominence among the NBA elite.

"Not just Kobe, but any high- profile athlete who's been in legal trouble, they go through a PR makeover to look good again," said Dr. Janine D'Anniballe, executive director of the Boulder- based Moving to End Sexual Assault. "The victims don't have the resources to help themselves in that way. Therefore, they're often forgotten, and the impact of the crime is minimized.

"I'm sure Kobe's thought is, 'It's over, I'm trying to put it behind me.' For the victim, there's just no putting that behind. It's a daily, daily struggle."

Faber, then 19, accused Bryant of raping her at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Edwards on June 30, 2003. Bryant said the two had consensual sex and charges were dismissed on Sept. 1, 2004, when Faber told Eagle County prosecutors that she did not want to continue with a criminal trial.

Bryant agreed to a settlement in Faber's federal civil lawsuit six months later, but the chain of events was seen as a setback for victims' rights.

D'Anniballe said the unfavorable treatment Faber received and the ultimate dismissal of the criminal case made other victims of sexual assault hesitant to go to the authorities.

"I talked to specific survivors that said, 'I don't want to report this because I saw what happened in the Kobe Bryant case,' " D'Anniballe said.

In Colorado, the number of forcible rapes reported dropped 10 percent in 2003 from the previous year, according to statistics provided by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The number of reports increased slightly in 2004 and 2005. That does not necessarily mean more rapes took place, but victims were more willing to report the assaults, CCASA executive director Tamika Payne said.

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