Rolling Stone did a story on a University of Virginia student, “Jackie,” who says she was brutally gang-raped at Phi Kappa Psi frat party two years ago. Once other news outlets starting reporting on the story, discrepancies became apparent in “Jackie’s” retelling of the attack. Rolling Stone’s managing editor Will Dana put out a statement, taking full responsibility for the lack of fact checking in their published article. Dana said, “Because of the sensitive nature of ‘Jackie’s’ story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man who she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men who she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her.”
He continued, “In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with “Jackie” and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on ‘Jackie.’ We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.”
This was a very responsible apology on Rolling Stone’s behalf for neglecting to tell the other side of “Jackie’s” story, however, it was rather irresponsible for the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely to only get one side to this story. Within the blurred details of “Jackie’s” story are her wrongly identifying the fraternity, whether or not her attacker was a part of said frat, what time she left the location where she was attacked, the name of her attacker and whether or not he attended UVA at the time and the photo she provided of her attacker was a high school acquaintance.
While these details are muddy, there’s a bigger story here and that is whether or not the victim is believed after she musters up the courage to speak out. “Jackie” was brave enough to speak out just like the 20 women who came out with accusations against Bill Cosby from sexual assaults that occurred decades ago. Unlike victims of any other crime, rape victims are often subject to ostracizing, disbelief and blame. Hostilities against the victim quickly gather steam and these hostilities are frequently supported by powerful (typically male-dominated) institutions such like schools. It’s not at all unusual for the rapists to be actively protected by the institution, while the victims are easily sacrificed and aggressively questioned.
“Jackie” has been through this trauma and continues to live through it in front of the entire world who sees fit to challenge the truth of her story. Other than friends who were there for “Jackie” the night of the attack and family members who have believed “Jackie” from day one, UVA’s Inter-Fraternity Council president Tommy Reid maintains that be believes “Jackie” was attacked by a fraternity member.
The statement released by UVA’s Inter-Fraternity Council following the Rolling Stone article on campus rape stated:
“As students, as Greek men, and above all as human beings, we on the Inter-Fraternity Council are horrified, disgusted, and viscerally saddened by the stories of sexual violence shared in the Rolling Stone article released yesterday, November 19.
That some fraternity men commit sexual assault is irreconcilable with everything we hope our community to be, and we are mortified that any fraternity member is responsible for perpetrating such a heinous crime. The members of the Inter-Fraternity Council are united in our admiration of the survivors who courageously shared their experiences with sexual violence in the article.
We cannot begin to comprehend the emotional and physical trauma the survivors have experienced and recognize that stories like these occur far too frequently on college campuses, including our own. We hope that this jarring account will spark reflection and discussion about the gender norms, power structures, and issues of sexual violence that exist both on our grounds and at universities across the nation.”
Whether the world believes “Jackie” or not, we don’t think her tragic case should be public fodder. What do you think beauties? Sound off in the comments below.
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