The Washington Post has done a big investigation into the Rolling Stone account of a gang-rape at the University of Virginia and has found a lot of discrepancies and holes in the story.

A lawyer for the University of Virginia fraternity whose members were accused of a brutal gang rape said Friday that the organization will release a statement rebutting the claims printed in a Rolling Stone article about the incident. Several of the woman’s close friends and campus sex assault awareness advocates expressed doubt about the published account, and the magazine’s editors also apologized to readers for discrepancies in the story.

Naturally Sommers is rejoicing.

The Post continues.

Will Dana, Rolling Stone’s managing editor, also released a statement with new doubt. “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,” he said in a statement.

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.

Red meat for the MRAs.


  1. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    It is as bad as you expect it to be. And many of the usual suspects also.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    Hasn’t that always been the stock response? The accused just sit there while everyone else searches madly for conflicting details and attempts to punch holes in the accusations, to the point of pressuring the victim to admit she made it all up?

    Maybe she did. I know that happens (Tawana Brawley case). But I think that should be the *LAST* conclusion, not the first.

  3. screechymonkey says

    We’ll have to see how it shakes out, but I note that this is not the kind of “false allegation” that MRAs claim to fear. If you were going to maliciously frame someone for rape, out of spite or “regretful sex” or whatever the supposed motive is, you’d bother to get the details like the names of the people you’re framing correct.

    Maybe this was shitty reporting, maybe it’s a victim who’s so traumatized that she’s getting even basic details wrong, maybe she’s mentally ill and/or fabulizing, but it’s not a frame-up. And it sounds like even a basic investigation by UVA would have revealed the problems.

  4. says

    Because no one ever gets a detail wrong unless they’re lying. Because memory is perfect especially during the most extreme traumatic experience. Because guys in different frats never attend each others’ parties. Because we’re supposed to assume that all rape victims are liars by default and take any discrepancy as proof that all rape allegations are false.

  5. says

    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.

    Which I don’t think in and of itself to be a big deal. When I was in college, frat members from one fraternity would quite often be seen at the parties of another fraternity (as Improbably Joe has already addressed). Also, I knew people to be members of a frat. Did I know specifically which one? Not necessarily! They were a member of a frat, and that was all the more I cared to know. So if I were to be quized as to what frat someone belonged to (or felt I needed to provide such information), I certainly would have been able to get it wrong.

    But…yeah, of course the MRA’s will see it as red meat. It fits their narrative.

  6. resident_alien says

    What Improbable Joe said.
    Sorry to Godwin, but when Holocaust survivors after WW2 were testifying against their former tormentors
    and would-be murderers, many of them got the odd detail and minutea wrong.
    Trauma (and your brain’s attempts to deal with it) will do that to a person.

  7. smrnda says

    Wait, so a discrepancy like getting a name slightly wrong now invalidates that a rape occurred at all? I guess the next time someone identifies a “Black man about six feet tall” and we find out that the actually a white guy who is five foot nine it proves nothing actually happened. All victims of crime have perfect perception and memory?

  8. karmacat says

    THe writer of the article tried to contact the men who were accused but didn’t get any response from them. So now that the article is out, they have responded. And then who are these close friends exactly? And what other details? Their memories of what Jackie told them could also be wrong. Journalists are always looking at “2 sides of an issue.” So are they questioning the doubters or just the victim. Even if Jackie’s account is not completely accurate, it shouldn’t detract from the problem of how rapes are handled by the college administration. But of course that piece will get ignored

  9. says

    NateHevens (@13)

    The more I think about this, the more pissed off I get. I feel really bad for Jackie right now. It’s good thing that’s not her real name and she was kept anonymous, because she’s already being dragged through the mud.
    Fuck you, Rolling Stone. Fuck you, MRAs. Fuck you, society.

    This! A thousand times this. Jackie is the victim here after all, irre-fucking-gardless of whether the Rolling Stone story is true or not.

    The MRA dudebros just don’t want their greek-privelege and their gang-rape-culture to be called out and challenged. Rolling Stone and Washington Post apparently caved to MRA and frat/alum pressure. Society as a whole has allowed rape culture to fester for too long and all of the moderate rape-apologists are giving cover to the more extreme gang-rape-apologists and perpetrators in the same way moderate religious give cover to religious extremists.

  10. Falcon says

    This is pretty horrible. Rolling Stone’s unethical reporting has just set back the progress of justice for rape victims by years – there is absolutely no doubt that this is now a story that will be used to justify the belief that women lie all the time about being raped and men are more often the victims of false allegations.

    I really feel as though the author effectively threw the young woman, Jackie, under a bus here – the apology/retraction essentially put all the blame entirely on her. However, even if parts of the story are not factual, it’s entirely possible that Jackie was not lying, due to the way that PSTD works. The group of friends who said they doubted the veracity of her story in this Washington Post article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/u-va-fraternity-to-rebut-claims-of-gang-rape-in-rolling-stone/2014/12/05/5fa5f7d2-7c91-11e4-84d4-7c896b90abdc_story.html?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost) said that they still believed that some kind of trauma had happened:

    A group of Jackie’s close friends, who are advocates at U-Va. for sex-assault awareness, said they believe that something traumatic happened to her, but they also have come to doubt her account.

    I also think this is on point:

    Rolling Stone’s statement places the blame on Jackie, accusing her of being unworthy of trust. But the fact is that the magazine failed to report this story in a careful and ethical way. The reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not fully check the details of Jackie’s story before publishing them — or contact the alleged perpetrators involved. Today, the Washington Post reported that the fraternity where Jackie said the attack took place did not host a party on the night Jackie said she was raped, and that no member of the house fits Jackie’s description of her assailant.

    Erdely claims that she was trying to protect Jackie, who feared that she might suffer retribution if Rolling Stone contacted her attackers. But failing to ensure that the story was accurate before exposing it to public scrutiny didn’t protect Jackie. It left her vulnerable.

    I know that from first-hand experience. I was a lawyer before becoming a journalist, and I worked with refugees and other trauma victims. That taught me that it is incredibly difficult for traumatized people to tell an accurate story, even if they are trying to do so. There are many reasons for this. In severe cases, post-traumatic stress disorder can cause memory loss, or make the true details of stories too painful to recount. One client of mine would shut down physically when asked to recount certain events, falling into a narcoleptic sleep mid-sentence. Another time, a woman I was interviewing about her sexual assault suffered a mental break and regressed to childhood, begging me to bring her to her long-dead mother.

    Even in less severe cases, people’s stories often contained errors or omissions. Dates would be wrong. Sometimes people would mistakenly name the wrong group as being responsible for persecuting them. Clients would focus on some facts and leave out others. All of that could easily have been reason to doubt the entire story, but when I checked the fundamental facts involved against other evidence — medical records, news stories, sometimes even the accounts of the perpetrators themselves — they would turn out to be true.

    I have no idea how much, if any, of Jackie’s story is true. I didn’t speak to her. It is of course possible that it is all a lie, or that some parts of it are true but she intentionally changed some details for reasons of her own. If so, then she bears responsibility for that decision. But it also seems like she could be in a similar situation as the people I worked with in the past. According to the Washington Post, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which can affect memory and make it more difficult to retell a story accurately. This could explain the apparent errors in the Rolling Stone story: the date of the attack, the name of the fraternity.

    Before I had experience working with trauma victims, I would have scoffed at the idea that anyone could make that kind of mistake. But now I can easily believe it. By failing to check Jackie’s story, Rolling Stone and Erdely weren’t protecting her. They were leaving her vulnerable. That was wrong and irresponsible, not just toward the the alleged perpetrators, but toward their readers, and toward Jackie herself.”


    (Also on point: http://www.theverge.com/2014/12/5/7342317/rolling-stone-retraction-rape-blame-consent)

    There’s also the fact that Jackie herself tried to be taken out of the article, but Rolling Stone went ahead with it anyway:


    Just terrible.

  11. culuriel says

    So, will the Washington Post contact the other victims in the RS story, and check out their stories? How ’bout the numerous other complaints UVA has received? I’m sure a couple of them will check out. Of course, that wouldn’t make MRAs happy to find that a story with discrepancies isn’t actually common, but the public will at least be able to know that UVA’s rape problem is real.

  12. johnthedrunkard says

    The big story isn’t about one victim’s report. And it certainly isn’t about some Oprah-esque attempt to present ‘both sides.’ Rape culture, frat culture, booze culture, are just as pervasive and horrible whether ‘Jackie’s’ story is garbled or even false.

    The patterns, the culture, the criminal and personal histories of the accused are what matters. That the victim is being investigated more than the perpetrators is a basic outrage.

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