An Instagram influencer who has traveled around the world has warned about the dangers of visiting the Dominican Republic, alleging that she was nearly kidnapped and sexually assaulted during two separate incidents while visiting the country last year.
Cora Smith, 27, from Orlando, Florida, and husband, Jay, run the travel Instagram account the_greatescape.blog and spent three months in the Dominican Republic at the start of their two-year trip around the globe.
The blogger, who was there from March to June 2018, admitted to Insider that she regrets not being more honest about her experience and only sharing scenic photos from their trip in light of the recent tourist deaths in the country.
Horror: Cora Smith, 27, from Orlando, Florida, claims she was nearly kidnapped and sexually assaulted in the Dominican Republic last year. She is pictured in Puerto Plata
Trip of a lifetime: Cora, who runs the travel Instagram the_greatescape.blog with her husband Jay (pictured), stayed in the Dominican Republic from March 2018 to June 2018
Cora first wrote about her experience in April 2018, in a candid blog post she titled, ‘Female Travelers going to Dominican Republic – Beware.’
She and her husband opted to stay in Airbnbs in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, and Costambar instead of resorts, and she claimed that within a matter of weeks, she was almost abducted and groped during two separate incidents.
The first occurred just two days into her trip to Santo Domingo, when she decided to go on a short mile-long run along the city’s boardwalk while Jay took a nap in their room.
Cora alleged that during the outing, a man pulled his car over, opened the passenger side door, and motioned for her to get in.
Right before she ran past him, she said he took a few steps toward her and acted like he was going to grab her and force her into his car. To avoid the potential attack, she started running in the other direction.
Scary: In a blog post that she published last year, she claimed a man nearly kidnapped her when she was out on a run just two days into their trip to Santo Domingo (pictured)
Terrifying: She also wrote that two men on scooters sexually assaulted her while she was riding a bike with her husband. Cora and Jay are pictured with their bikes in Santo Domingo
Sexual assault: Cora, who is pictured in Costambar, said the men violated her in ‘every way you can except being raped’
‘I’m not sure what would have happened if I had gotten closer, but I didn’t want to find out,’ she wrote. ‘For him to be crazy enough to pull his car over, block an entire lane of traffic, and try to force me to get in his car in plain daylight, tells me that my perception of safety was just that, a perception.’
Cora said she and Jay were riding their bikes in Punta Cana when the second incident occurred. She claimed two guys on scooters pulled up next to her and grabbed her bike before starting to assault her.
‘The man on the back of the scooter reaches out and grabs my butt. I was completely shocked and furious,’ she wrote on her blog. ‘He started to laugh at me in my face. I tried to create a little distance as they were so close to me our legs were touching.
‘I pulled back out in [an] attempt to kick them and knock the scooter over. When I did this, then the guy reaches out and grabs my chest. I’m talking full on groped me.’
Even though she was screaming, Cora said her husband, who was ahead of her, couldn’t hear her because of the road noise. By the time she had a chance to tell him what happened, the guys were gone.
‘They were violating me in every way you can except being raped,’ she told Insider. ‘I kept trying to kick them away but I had no control of what was happening.’
Decision; Cora and her husband, pictured in Puerto Plato, opted to stay in Airbnbs in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, and Costambar instead of resorts
Faking it: Despite the alleged incidents, the couple filled their Instagram page with photos from their trip. She admitted they were ‘very worried about bashing anyone or anything’
Cora claimed she didn’t go to the police with her allegations because officers previously threatened to put her husband in jail if he didn’t give them his wallet.
She said they couldn’t even afford to change their travel plans, so they ended up staying the full three months in the Dominican Republic despite the alleged incidents.
‘The whole time I was there, every fiber of my being was questioned,’ she said. ‘I was miserable. I was sad, I was depressed. It created a depression that stuck for the better part of the year.’
Aside from her blog post, Cora said she waited more than a year to speak out about what had happened to her because she had a fear or rejection.
In the photos shared on Instagram during their three-month stay, Cora can be seen posing in a bikini, going hiking with her husband, and enjoying scenic views.
Allegations: Cora, pictured in Punta Cana, claimed she didn’t go to the police because officers previously threatened to put her husband in jail if he didn’t give them his wallet
Making it look good: She said they couldn’t even afford to change their travel plans, so they ended up staying the full three months in the Dominican Republic
Change of heart: The blogger said she ultimately decided to speak out about her experience in light of the recent tourist deaths in the country
‘We were very worried about bashing anyone or anything. In all honesty, influencers are too scared to tell the truth and feel they need to show the beautiful side,’ she admitted. ‘Most people only want to hear the positive things.’
Cora shared her blog post with Insider after American tourist Tammy Lawrence-Daley, 51, alleged she was strangled, beaten, and left for dead during the second night of her January vacation stay at the Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana.
‘It’s not a safe country, and it’s not just the five-star resorts,’ she said. ‘I feel like I can’t sit here and listen to the prime minister and say, “Our country is safe,” because it’s not safe.’
The Smiths, who are currently in Spain, are still traveling around the world and sharing photos from their travels with their 26,500 Instagram followers.
Last week, Dominican Republic national police chief spokesman Col. Frank Durán commented on Tammy’s alleged assault, saying that ‘there is a lot of conjecture about the case’ and ‘a lot of information that doesn’t match some of the statements.’
The suggestions came after Tammy and her husband accused local police of bungling the investigation, with reports that a rape test was administered 48 hours after the alleged attack, among a slew of other criticisms.
Warning: Cora, pictured with Jay in Puerto Plata, insisted that ‘it’s not a safe country’
Candid: Cora admitted that ‘influencers are too scared to tell the truth and feel they need to show the beautiful side’
Won’t stop: The Smiths are still traveling around the world and sharing photos from their travels with their 26,500 Instagram followers
The shocking allegation was labeled an ‘isolated incident’ by the Dominican Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Miguel Vargas Maldonado, but at the same time ‘worries Dominican authorities.’
Three other Americans were found dead at the same resort in La Romana in late May.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, a psychotherapist from Allentown, Pennsylvania, passed away on May 25, after getting a drink from the mini-bar while enjoying the celebration of her ninth wedding anniversary with her husband.
Maryland couple Cynthia Day, 49, and Nathaniel Holmes, 63, were discovered dead at their hotel room at the all-inclusive Gran Bahia Principe five days later. Police found bottles of high blood pressure medications in the room.
Autopsies performed on Cynthia and Nathanial found their cause of death to be the same as Schaup-Werner: respiratory failure and pulmonary edema.
In a separate incident, former Boston Red Sox star David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz was shot in a bar in the Dominican Republic on Sunday evening. He flew back to Boston on Monday and is expected to recover.