Sunday, December 07, 2014

Rolling Stone apologizes over account of UVA gang rape

1) Breaking news: It now appears that one of the most widely known/read /discussed rape stories ever has likely been embellished and may be a total fabrication. Consider (from the articles below):
·         "The University of Virginia's Phi Kappa Psi chapter did not have a party the night of September 28, 2012, the date when the reported attack occurred…"
·         "the orchestrator of the alleged rape did not belong to the fraternity, the fraternity house has no side staircase and there were no pledges at that time of year"
·         "no members of the fraternity were employed at the university's Aquatic Fitness Center during that time frame — a detail Jackie provided in her account to Rolling Stone and in interviews with The Washington Post — and that no member of the house matches the description detailed in the Rolling Stone account."
·         "A group of Jackie's close friends, who are sex assault awareness advocates at U-Va., said they believe something traumatic happened to Jackie but have come to doubt her account. They said details have changed over time, and they have not been able to verify key points of the story in recent days. A name of an alleged attacker that Jackie provided to them for the first time this week, for example, turned out to be similar to the name of a student who belongs to a different fraternity, and no one by that name has been a member of Phi Kappa Psi. Reached by phone, that man, a U-Va. graduate, said Friday that he did work at the Aquatic Fitness Center and was familiar with Jackie's name. He said, however, that he had never met Jackie in person and had never taken her on a date. He also confirmed that he was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi."
Wow, what a disaster in so many ways: for the fraternity and university, who have apparently been falsely smeared; for Jackie, who will forever be stained by this (there's zero chance she'll remain anonymous), which is especially sad because I don't doubt thatsomething bad happened to her; and worst of all, to quote the (female) CNN anchor at the end of this segment: "For all of the women in the future, from this day forward, who aresexually assaulted and raped, will it be taken as seriously as it should be?" The sad but, in my opinion, obvious answer is: NO.
Here's an excerpt from the Washington Post story below:

Alex Pinkleton, a close friend of Jackie's who survived a rape and an attempted rape during her first two years on campus, said in an interview that she has had numerous conversations with Jackie in recent days and now feels misled.

"One of my biggest fears with these inconsistencies emerging is that people will be unwilling to believe survivors in the future," Pinkleton said. "However, we need to remember that the majority of survivors who come forward are telling the truth."

Pinkleton said that she is concerned that sexual assault awareness advocacy groups will suffer as a result of the conflicting details of the Rolling Stone allegations.

"While the details of this one case may have been misreported, this does not erase the somber truth this article brought to light: Rape is far more prevalent than we realize and it is often misunderstood and mishandled by peers, institutions, and society at large," Pinkleton said.
I agree. Even if this one story turns out to be a total fabrication, it doesn't change my view (which is backed up by numerous surveys and studies) that sexual assaults on college campuses occur with alarming frequency and thus this is a very serious issue that our colleges and universities need to do much more to address. Alas, however, in light this high-profile story being discredited, I fear that the momentum that existed at UVA and other colleges around the country to enact meaningful reforms to reduce sexual assaults and the factors that lead to them (such as binge drinking) has just been halted in its tracks. I hope I'm wrong, but doubt it. What a tragedy!
2) Here's the CNN story:

Rolling Stone apologizes over account of UVA gang rape

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 2:17 PM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
Source: CNN
·         Rolling Stone published a scathing report about an alleged gang rape at UVA
·         The magazine is now apologizing, pointing to "discrepancies" in accuser's account
·         A lawyer for the fraternity says there was no party on the date of the alleged attack

(CNN) -- Rolling Stone magazine apologized to readers Friday for a story it published chronicling one woman's account of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house and the school's failure to respond to that alleged assault.

The magazine editors made the choice not to contact the man who allegedly "orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her," a decision Rolling Stone says it now regrets.

"In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in (the woman's) account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced," Rolling Stone said.

The University of Virginia's Phi Kappa Psi chapter did not have a party the night of September 28, 2012, the date when the reported attack occurred, the fraternity chapter's lawyer, Ben Warthen, told CNN. He said email records and Inter-fraternity Council records prove there was no party.

Warthen said there were other discrepancies in the account from the woman, whom Rolling Stone identified as Jackie, who then had just started her freshman year. For example, the orchestrator of the alleged rape did not belong to the fraternity, the fraternity house has no side staircase and there were no pledges at that time of year.

"It's not part of our culture," Warthen said. "It's just not true."

3) Here's the statement from Rolling Stone:

A Note to Our Readers

By Rolling Stone | December 5, 2014 

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

4) Today's news underscores what I included in my email last week:
To those who say "a woman would never lie about being raped", allow me to share with you the response by my wife's college roommate, who at the time (maybe 15 years ago) was in the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. When I said this to her, she replied:
Oh please. Rape is the MOST lied about crime. Think about it: does anybody ever lie about being mugged, having their home burglarized, their car stolen, whereas there are a lot of reasons why a woman might lie about being raped. I had one case where, after we investigated, it turned out that she was a prostitute and was using a rape claim to try to resolve a dispute with her customer about how much he owed her. In the case of another woman, her parents found out she'd had sex and they were super conservative so, to get out of being punished, she made up a rape story. Or another woman who made up the story because she was angry that they guy hadn't called her afterward.
Let me be clear: I think a woman completely fabricating stories like these is extremely rare. But far more common no doubt are situations in which I think a reasonable person would say belongs in a gray area: both people are drunk, horny and like each other, they go up to his or her room and start making out, things get hot and heavy, and they have sex. Did he pressure her? Did he force her? Did she say no? Who knows? There are almost never any witnesses. What is a prosecutor or a university supposed to do with this?
5) Here's the lengthy Washington Post story, which includes the only interview any reporter has had with Jackie since the Rolling Stone article came out:

U-Va. fraternity to rebut claims of gang rape in Rolling Stone

Protestors carry signs and chant slogans in front of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia late Saturday night, Nov. 22, in Charlottesville. The protest, the most well-attended of several throughout the day, was in response to the university's reaction to an alleged sexual assault of a student revealed in a recent Rolling Stone article. (Ryan M. Kelly/AP)
 December 5 at 1:01 PM
Washington Post

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