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Instagram influencer regrets not being honest about her Dominican Republic travels

INSIDER logoINSIDER 6/11/2019 Kelly McLaughlin
a person sitting on a dock near the water © Cora Smith

An Instagram influencer who has traveled the globe says she regrets not being honest about her experiences in the Dominican Republic as the country faces scrutiny over recent tourist deaths. 

Cora Smith, who runs the Instagram along with her husband, Jay, traveled through the Dominican Republic for three months between March 2018 and June 2018 to kick off a two-year trip around the world.

On Instagram, the couple, from Orlando, Florida, can be seen smiling on sandy beaches, hiking through waterfalls, and spending time with other tourists.

Smith told INSIDER, however, that her real life wasn't as carefree.

a woman with a bicycle in front of a building © Cora Smith

In a story published in a blog post last year and shared to INSIDER this week, Smith claimed she was nearly kidnapped and sexually assaulted in separate incidences within weeks of arriving in the Dominican Republic.

"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 said. "Most people only want to hear the positive things."

Smith did not go to police with her allegations, claiming that officers had previously threatened to take her husband's money and put him in jail if he didn't give them his wallet.

"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."

The Smiths, who are now in Ibiza, Spain, did not stay in resorts during their time in the Dominican Republic, and instead opted to stay in Airbnbs in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, and Costambar. 

On their second day in Santo Domingo, Smith said she took a run along the city's boardwalk while her husband took a nap.

She claimed a man tried to force her into his car by driving along side her, and pulling his car up in front of her. She said he angrily sped off after she turned around and ran in the opposite direction.

a person smiling next to a body of water © Cora Smith

In Punta Cana, Smith said three men on a motorbike assaulted her while she was riding her bike behind her husband. She claimed the men rode up next to her and grabbed her bike and groped her.

"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. They pushed my bike to try to get me to fall over. I'm yelling for my husband but he's ahead of me and he couldn't hear me."

She said they eventually let go of her bike, and she was able to catch up with her husband.

From that moment on, she told INSIDER, she never left her husband's side. 

"We really kind of isolated ourselves to protect ourselves from the dangers of where we were," she said.

Despite the incidents, the couple stayed in the country for three months. They said they couldn't afford to change their travel plans, and found a community of expats in Costambar that helped them feel a little safer.

Still, Smith said she regrets not sharing her story earlier.

a man and a woman posing in front of a building © Cora Smith

"You feel this obligation to be honest, but a fear of rejection if you are," Smith told INSIDER of being a social media influencer. "I didn't tell my story, and I think it's out of fear."

She said she wanted to tell her story after Tammy Lawrence-Daley, 51, claimed in a Facebook post that she was attacked the all-inclusive Majestic Elegance resort in Punta Cana while she was vacationing her her husband and friends in January.

"It's not a safe country, and it's not just the five-star resorts," Smith 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."

Dominican Republic national police chief spokesman Col. Frank Durán told CBS News that officials are still investigating her claims, and say they have found inconsistencies.

The Dominican Republic is also facing scrutiny after several American tourists died while staying at resorts around the country. Other tourists have come forward claiming they were poisoned at resorts.

In a separate incident, former MBL star David Ortiz was shot at a bar in the Dominican Republic on Sunday night. He is now in Boston and expected to recover. 

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