Rolling Stone Backtracks From Story on Gang Rape at UVAChris Staiti and John Lauerman
Rolling Stone magazine backtracked on its story of a 2012 gang rape at the University of Virginia and said that its trust in the woman “Jackie” who reported the alleged attack was misplaced.
“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,” the magazine wrote today in a statement. “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.”
The Nov. 19 story, which has roiled the Charlottesville campus and riveted a nation, centered on the freshman, who said she was lured to a room at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party and raped by seven men. Outrage over the story led UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan to suspend the more than 30 fraternities and related social activities and sparked protests at the school.
“Over the past two weeks, our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today,” Sullivan said today in a statement. “Today’s news must not alter this focus” and students well-being remains “our top priority,” she said.
State Attorney General Mark Herring criticized the magazine, saying its revelations leave many questions unanswered.
“It is deeply troubling that Rolling Stone magazine is now publicly walking away from its central storyline in its bombshell report on the University of Virginia without correcting what errors its editors believe were made,” Herring said in a statement. “Virginians are now left grasping for the truth, but we must not let that undermine our support for survivors of sexual assault or the momentum for solutions.''
The story was questioned by media critics because of the reporter’s failure to contact or verify the existence of the alleged perpetrators. According to the account, Jackie was assaulted Sept. 28, 2012, after she was invited to a ‘‘date function’’ at the Phi Kappa Psi house by an unnamed member with whom she worked as a lifeguard.
‘‘There’s still plenty of concern about the Greek system and binge drinking and the number of sexual assaults that go unpunished, but facts matter,’’ said Bob Gibson, executive director of UVA’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. ‘‘This is upsetting that a respected journalistic outfit didn’t finish doing its job.”
The chapter today provided results from its “internal fact-finding,” which conflict with the Rolling Stone account.
No Phi Kappa Psi members were listed as lifeguards on the 2012 employee roster of UVA’s Aquatic and Fitness Center, according to a statement from the group. The chapter said it didn’t hold a “date function” during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012.
The chapter disputed the idea that the incident could have been part of a Phi Kappa Psi pledging ritual. Pledging and initiation activities take place in the spring semester, not during the fall when the alleged rape occurred.
“We have no knowledge of these alleged acts being committed at our house or by our members,” the fraternity said. “Anyone who commits any form of sexual assault, wherever or whenever, should be identified and brought to justice.”
The chapter encouraged those with information about the case to call the Charlottesville police.
“When something this bad is associated with us, it’s hard to look past it,” said an alumnus of the fraternity, who asked not to be identified because the national fraternity asked members not to comment during the investigation. “It’s very hard to rid yourself of something like this when your reputation is tarnished.”
The Charlottesville Police Department said it will continue to investigate the rape alleged in the article.
“Our purpose is to find the truth,” Captain Gary Pleasants said in an e-mail. “These articles do not change our focus moving forward.”