In The UVA Rape Story, We Must Blame Rolling Stone And Not The Alleged Victim

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rsIn a statement that has shocked many today, Rolling Stone has issued a retraction concerning its highly publicized story on the rape of a student named Jackie at the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone failed to vet the story properly, which now means that a young woman whose story may or may not be true is being shamed and portrayed as a liar in the national media.

When the story broke we covered it here, reacting with the horror and outrage that it deserved. Today, with Rolling Stone‘s retraction, rape-apologists the world over have been given the right to point at holes in the story of a vicious gang rape, about which any victim could not possibly be expected to get have all of her facts straight.

Here is the statement from Rolling Stone, in its entirety:

To Our Readers:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

Will Dana
Managing Editor

More than half of the statement is spent defending themselves for not doing their job as journalists. Rolling Stone failed to fully check the veracity of Jackie’s claims, and instead of taking responsibility for their shoddy work, they are blaming her.

Phi Kappa Psi released a statement today, which you can read in full on Digg. In it, they claim there was no official function on the night Jackie said she was attacked, and say:

Our Chapter’s pledging and initiation periods, as required by the University and Inter-Fraternity Council, take place solely in the spring semester and not in the fall semester. We document the initiation of new members at the end of each spring. Moreover, no ritualized sexual assault is part of our pledging or initiation process. This notion is vile, and we vehemently refute this claim.

The Washington Post has also published an article on this, saying that they have spent the past week trying to verify Jackie’s story:

The Washington Post has interviewed Jackie several times during the past week and has worked to corroborate her version of events, contacting dozens of current and former members of the fraternity, the fraternity’s faculty adviser, Jackie’s friends and former roommates, and others on campus. Fraternity members said anonymously that the description of the assailant doesn’t match anyone they know and have been telling others on campus that they did not have a party the night of the alleged attack.


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