*trigger warning: This post discusses sexual assault and the UVA rape story*
The title says it all: so much as happened regarding the UVA rape story and I don’t know how to feel or what to think. If you’re reading this blog post right now, you’ve probably heard of “A Rape On Campus,” an article by Sabrina Erdely that was published in Rolling Stone’s December 2014 issue. If you didn’t read the original article, I understand–it was 9,000 words long–but the story it contained was brutal: Erdely told the story of a UVA student, “Jackie,” who was gang-raped by several members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on September 28, 2012. The article gained a lot of attention very quickly, and people were outraged, including SpongebobBloggerpants, who wrote a post about it on ShoutOut. However, the story quickly went from an expository truth to a doubted story, when flaws in the reporting of the piece came to light and Rolling Stone issued an apology on December 5th, 2014. Now, “A Rape On Campus” is back in the news because, as of April 5th, 2015-exactly four months after the apology was issued- the story has been entirely retracted by Rolling Stone and replaced by Columbia University’s report of the journalistic failure.
I’m not going to talk about the Colombia report in this post. If you want to learn about that, read all 13,000 words yourself. (sidenote: what is with RS’s ridiculously long pieces? Is it so that people don’t actually read the whole thing? because it was a struggle.) If you want to know even more, I recommend reading this piece from Think Progress, this piece by Jessica Valenti, and this one from BuzzFeed. The common these around all of the posts lined here is that, although Rolling Stone is taking responsibility for their failure, they’re still blaming Jackie for their mistakes.
Like I said in the title, I have a lot of feelings about this. Here are a few of them:
Confusion: I, like many in the general public, am confused about what actually happened. What is the real story? Was Jackie actually sexually assaulted? Were the fraternity members to blame? I’M CONFUSED. The fact is, these questions will not be answered, because it’s impossible. We can’t know what really happened to Jackie, and we probably will never know. That being said, we HAVE to continue to stand up for survivors of sexual assault, because it is way too common.
Disappointment: I know this sounds weird, but I was disappointed when the retraction was issued. I’m not saying that I wanted the violent story to be true, but when the article first came out, I felt like Rolling Stone had performed an act of justice for sexual assault survivors. To me, the original article was a voice for the voiceless, but now that the article has been retracted, the fate of survivors may be even worse.
Betrayal: I feel betrayed by Rolling Stone for even publishing this article in the first place. It may be many people’s gut instinct to feel betrayed by Jackie for being a “liar” (I use quotations because we don’t know that for sure), but I feel betrayed by the magazine that published the story, knowing that it would get a lot of media attention, despite key pieces of evidence missing.
Worry: What happens now to potential victims of sexual assault? I’m worried. With a case like Jackie’s, especially at a school so close to JMU, people will be more and more unlikely to believe survivors. This story has already gained the hashtag #UVAHoax, showing that if an editorial makes this kind of mistake, the entire story is tarnished. People don’t believe survivors without concrete facts, and sometimes those facts are impossible to obtain.
I’m not sure if this is the end of the saga of Jackie and Rolling Stone, but I am sure of one thing: sexual assault happens on college campuses. It happens ALL. THE. TIME. We have to continue to support survivors. It’s the only way to combat this horrible injustice.