Travel influencers detail 'dangerous' Dominican Republic experience, respond to backlash

Jayme Deerwester

Travel influencers Cora and Jay Smith recently attracted headlines – and haters  – for reiterating the "dangerous" side of their of their three-month trip to the Dominican Republic in 2018.

Cora claimed she narrowly avoided being kidnapped and sexually assaulted on the Caribbean island.

In an Instagram post published Thursday, the Florida couple, who document their adventures on their Great Escape blog and Instagram account, answered critics who slammed them for only opening up now about their experience, as the island makes headlines over the recent deaths of U.S. tourists.

In a video accompanying the post, Jay once again called the country dangerous and decried the backlash the pair had received for speaking out.  

Want news from USA TODAY on WhatsApp? Click this link on your mobile device to get started 

"People are trying to say the only reason we're coming out with our story now is because of all the other horrible news coming out of the D.R. and that we're trying to create a pattern. We didn't create the pattern. The people who actually perpetrated these crimes made the pattern. All we're doing is trying to warn people the pattern is there." 

In the past two months, four U.S. tourists have died at resorts on the island and former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz, a Dominican native, was shot  at close range last weekend while visiting his homeland. And in late May, a Delaware woman went viral with a Facebook post in which she said she was  brutally assault there in January.

Dominican Republic: Island faces tourist backlash after Ortiz shooting, multiple deaths

Jay noted the pair detailed their "bad" experiences in an April 6, 2019, post – published nearly two months before Tammy Lawrence-Daley detailed her January assault at a Punta Cana resort.

In the post, Cora wrote a man catcalled her and pulled over his car, motioning for her to get in. 

According to that post, two weeks later, she and Jay were riding bikes when a pair of Dominican men turned their scooter around to follow her.

"The man on the back of the scooter reaches out and grabs my butt," she wrote. "I was completely shocked and furious. 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 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."

She continued, "After they had their fun, they speed off. It all happened so quickly and even though I was screaming, my husband couldn’t hear me over all the road noise. By time I was able to tell him what happened they were already long gone."

In his video, Jay acknowledged such incidents are not unique to them but asked critics to consider what they would have done in their shoes.

In the caption area of Thursday's post, the Smiths said they didn't report either incident "because what would that have accomplished? There would have been no suspects or proof. We didn’t have photos of the incidents." 

To the people who want to know why they're speaking up now, the Smiths wrote, "This country has had a lasting effect on us and we wanted to defend the current victims by sharing our experience. We really felt obligated to say something. We were trying to do the right thing and warn people."

In his video, Jay said that they decided to speak out again after the Dominican tourism minister claimed the recent cases involving U.S. tourists were "all isolated incidents and that the D.R. is a safe place."

On the contrary, he said, "We went to many areas in the D.R. and it was very much the same: the harassment, the abuse. It happened everywhere."

To anyone planning a trip there, he warned, "You should expect some level of it and don't be surprised if it happens to you."

Related: Bodies of Maryland couple who died at D.R. resort returned to US

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Travel influencers detail 'dangerous' Dominican Republic experience, respond to backlash