“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
On November 19, 2014, prize-winning journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely published the result of months of “investigative journalism” (quotation marks deliberate) as A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at U-VA (now retracted and deleted from their site) in Rolling Stone magazine.
Addendum #1 details latest discrepancies in Jackie’s fast-unraveling story.
Addendum #2 is the email from Jackie that “Haven/Drew” forwarded to Ryan Duffin.
Addendum #3 includes some of the US Senate testimony of Emily Renda, the U-VA employee who put Sabrina Erdely in touch with Jackie.
Addendum #4 explains the origin and baselessness of the 1 in 5 college rape statistic.
Addendum #5 follows up with the best oveview of the The Campus Rape Culture Myth.
Addendum #6 address the 2011 DOE Dear Colleague Letter, the Campus SaVE Act, & the Harvard Law Professors’ Letter Opposing Campus Sexual Assault Policies Based on Them
Conclusion: What’s To Be Done?
Postscript: The 600 Pound Gorilla Nobody Wants to Face – Binge Drinking
Case Effectively Closed: Police Find No Evidence to Support Rape Story
Epilogue: The Columbia Journalism School Review of Rolling Stone
(and my commentary on Columbia’s report, indicting them for similar malfeasance)
[Check back frequently, as this article is updated regularly.]
For a more in-depth expose of the evolution of institutions of higher learning into witch-hunt tribunals for the “rape culture” advocates, see my latest essays:
The Pendulum Reverses – Again : Men Strike Back against Title IX Tribunals
Her 9,000-word article was received with general acclaim and contributed to the national discussion about what has often been described as an epidemic of campus rape and the failure of school administrations to respond to it appropriately.
It also led to the suspension of all fraternity functions on the U-VA campus, several public meetings to discuss and respond to the crisis caused by the national spotlight on this genteel Southern university founded by Thomas Jefferson, student demonstrations, and a quick commitment on the part of U-VA president Teresa Sullivan to make the safety of students the highest priority.
[Seventeen attorneys involved with campus sexual assault claims throughout America wrote a letter to U-VA President Teresa Sullivan detailing specific reasons why they “are concerned that the University’s Proposed Student Sexual Misconduct Policy is both vastly over inclusive in attempting to define prohibited conduct and ill equipped to guarantee a procedure for resolving allegations that is fair and impartial”.]
And it resulted in the vandalism of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house by a group of U-VA terrorists.
In the wee morning hours after Rolling Stone’s story roiled the University of Virginia campus, a masked group of five women and three men unleashed their fury on the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the center of the controversy.
Bottles and bricks were tossed through nearly every first-floor window, sending shards of glass and crashing sounds into the house around 2:30 AM on November 20. Profane, hate messages such as “Fuck Boys” were spray-painted on the walls of the colonial facade, along with anti-sexual assault epithets such as “suspend us”, and “UVA Center for Rape Studies”. The fraternity house had to be evacuated and all residents relocated.
Yet more than a month after the attack, no arrests have been made and no charges have been filed, even though the cell phone of one of the group was found at the site of the vandalism.
The progeny of a privileged family, alleged to be the ringleader of the group (who spoke to the Washington Times under an agreement he wouldn’t be named) said his friends sent an anonymous letter to various news organizations several hours after the attack warning that it was “just the beginning” and threatening to “escalate and provoke until certain demands were met,” including “an immediate revision of university policy mandating expulsion as the only sanction for rape and sexual assault”.
The University of Virginia, which previously issued suspensions for findings of fault in school-sponsored tribunal rape cases, changed its penalty to expulsion shortly after the attackers’ threats were published.
The first cracks in Erderly’s story appeared on November 24, when former George editor and current editor-in-chief of Worth, Richard Bradley, published a piece on his blog called “Is the Rolling Stone Story True?”
Bradley had suffered the misfortune of collaborating with writer Stephen Glass at George magazine (co-founded by John F. Kennedy, Jr.). In 1998, it was revealed that as many as half of Glass’ published articles were fabrications, and Bradley developed a skeptical sixth sense from that embarrassment.
In applying that skeptical perspective to Erderly’s story, too much of it began to raise questions about her journalistic objectivity and integrity, and she seemed to suffer from the same kind of “confirmation bias” that allowed Bradley to fall victim to the journalistic inventions of Glass.
Bradley wrote about the sensational campus rape story that formed the lede and the core of the Rolling Stone article, “The only thing is…I’m not sure that I believe it. I’m not convinced that this gang rape actually happened. Something about this story doesn’t feel right.”
Bradley continued, “Let me be very clear: I don’t doubt that it’s possible that this happened. People can do terrible things, things that one doesn’t want to believe happen. And I certainly don’t want to think that this could have happened. But more than that: I don’t believe that it happened – certainly not in the way that it is recounted… Remember: One must be most critical about stories that play into existing biases. And this story nourishes a lot of them: biases against fraternities, against men, against the South; biases about the naivete of young women, especially Southern women; pre-existing beliefs about the prevalence – indeed, the existence – of rape culture; extant suspicions about the hostility of university bureaucracies to sexual assault complaints that can produce unflattering publicity.”
On November 28, Paul Farhi, The Washington Post’s media reporter, wrote:
Magazine writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely knew she wanted to write about sexual assaults at an elite university. What she didn’t know was which university.
So, for six weeks starting in June, Erdely interviewed students from across the country. She talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. None of those schools felt quite right. But one did: the University of Virginia, a public school, Southern and genteel, brimming with what Erdely calls “super-smart kids” and steeped in the legacy of its founder, Thomas Jefferson.
What Erdely eventually found in Charlottesville shocked her, and it eventually shocked the nation.
In a searing investigative piece published by Rolling Stone magazine last week, Erdely told the story of Jackie, who as a first-year student was allegedly gang-raped by seven men at a U-VA fraternity party in 2012.
Farhi also noted that “One of the many remarkable things about Erdely’s article is that no one had reported it before.”
But Farhi praised Erdely’s journalistic effort, writing how:
Ederly spent weeks corroborating details of Jackie’s account, including such minutiae as her work as a lifeguard. She concluded: “I find her completely credible. It’s impossible to know for certain what happened in that room, because I wasn’t in it. But I certainly believe that she described an experience that was incredibly traumatic to her.
Farhi, however, also offered mild criticism:
Some elements of the story, however, are apparently too delicate for Erdely to talk about now. She won’t say, for example, whether she knows the names of Jackie’s alleged attackers or whether in her reporting she approached “Drew”, the alleged ringleader, for comment. She is bound to silence about those details, she said, by an agreement with Jackie, who “is very fearful of these men, in particular Drew”.
The story does take one journalistic shortcut. The alleged assault, described in graphic detail, is presented largely without traditional qualifiers, such as “according to Jackie” or “allegedly”. The absence of such attribution or qualification leaves the impression that the events in question are undisputed facts, rather than accusations. Erdely said, however, that her writing style makes it clear that the events are being told from Jackie’s point of view.
Then, on December 1, Robby Soave (staff editor at Reason.com. focusing on college news, education policy, and criminal justice reform) published “Is the U-VA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?” at Reason.com.
Soave reported on the critical reviews of both Bradley and Farhi, and goes on to say:
I have no reason to disbelieve Erdely, and I understand why she would choose not to disclose anyone’s identity. But she should be able to confirm that she knows who the attackers are, shouldn’t she? Again, we don’t have to know who they are, but we should know that she knows – or else the story is just one long uncorroborated accusation. And regardless of whether or not the story is told “from Jackie’s point of view”, it was written by Erdely, who treats its contents as fact.
So when I say that I was initially inclined to believe the story, it’s not because I wanted or needed it to be true to fit my worldview. Rather, I assumed honesty on the part of the author and her source – not because I’m naive, but because I didn’t think someone would lie about such an unbelievable story. …
However, some of the details do strike me as perplexing on subsequent re-reads. One issue now being raised by skeptics is the nature of her injuries, which sound as if they would have required immediate medical attention. (According to the story, everybody involved was basically rolling around in broken glass for hours.)
And he concluded with a constructive conclusion and a willingness to suspend judgment:
Universities should be divorced from the rape adjudication process, regardless of what actually happened at U-VA that night. That said, I’ll be following any and all developments in this case, and am eager to see this particular story either confirmed as true or exposed as a hoax.
Suddenly, the feminist backlash began. The first was Anna Merlan on Jezebel (“Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.” owned by Gawker Media) on December 1, with “‘Is the U-VA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?’ Asks Idiot”
Merlan not only calls Bradley an “idiot” in the title of her piece, but goes on to say that “Soave at Reason – who has previously written that much of the campus sexual assault crisis is just ‘criminalizing campus sex’ – takes Bradley’s giant ball of shit and runs with it.”
In summary, what we have here are two dudes who have some vague suspicions and, on that basis, are implying that Ederley either fabricated her story or failed to do her due diligence and didn’t fact check what Jackie told her. …
But never mind Erdely’s months of work. Two guys who have no idea what they’re talking about don’t believe it. Case closed.
After Rolling Stone issued it’s public apology, which fell far short of a retraction (they did not change or pull the original article and appeared to shift blame to the story’s subject, the anonymous “Jackie”), Merlan was forced to issue her own:
This is really, really bad. It means, of course, that when I dismissed Richard Bradley and Robby Soave’s doubts about the story and called them “idiots” for picking apart Jackie’s account, I was dead fucking wrong, and for that I sincerely apologize. It means that my conviction that Sabrina Rubin Erdely had fact-checked her story in ways that were not visible to the public was also wrong. It’s bad, bad, bad all around. …
But then she concludes with the usual concern of the proponents of the “rape culture” meme:
Saddest of all, this is bad in ways that have far-reaching social consequences: we’ve just begun, as a society, to not immediately and harshly question a woman who says she was raped.
No concern about the reputations and lives ruined, sometimes irredeemably, by false allegations. No concern about the upheaval that the U-VA community went through nor about the defamation of the fraternity. No concern about the scientifically-documented prevalence of false rape allegations, particularly acquaintance rape and campus rape. But only concern that the dogma of “always believe the rape victim” might be sullied.
Richard Bradley was also immediately declared a “U-VA truther” by New York magazine contributing writer Marin Cogan, who compared him to 9/11 conspiracy theorists for even questioning Erdely’s story, despite the fact that Bradley included plenty of caveats that Erderly (and Jackie) might be telling the truth. Cogan has since apologized for using the term and acknowledged she was wrong about the story.
But others, like feminist writer Amanda Marcotte (who in 2007 wrote that people who defended the Duke lacrosse team were “rape-loving scum”), have merely shifted focus to how “rape apologists” will greet the news of Rolling Stone’s admission of their report’s shortcomings. (“Recommend everyone who expects victims to have perfect memory sit down and construct, word for word, the last dinner conversation they had,” she tweeted after Rolling Stone’s recantation.)
The lesson Marcotte drew from the magazine’s climbdown was that it was “interesting that rape apologists think that if they can ‘discredit’ one rape story, that means no other rape stories can be true, either.” While others were debating the failings of Rolling Stone’s process, Marcotte was railing against “rape apologists [who] are so sure rapes are hoaxes…”
In an appearance on HuffPo Live, Marcotte took aim at those demanding more reporting of Jackie’s story, which she claims is actually meant to prevent victims from coming forward: “The irony is that all these accusations that all the facts aren’t out are aimed at discouraging investigation and reporting things that gets the facts out.”
Only a true demagogue could argue that authentic investigative journalism is intended to prevent the facts from emerging.
Still others attempted to turn the focus away from Jackie onto the magazine that credulously told her story. The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti – always one to propagate the “rape culture” and “rape apologist” memes – excoriated Rolling Stone on Twitter: “Kudos on throwing this young woman under the bus for your failures. Assholes.”
In spite of the absurdist allegations of the militant feminist camp, a flurry of critical articles began to appear in a wide spectrum of media outlets.
“Rolling Stone Never Gave the Villains of Its Gang Rape Story a Chance to Defend Themselves” by Judith Shulevitz, December 1 in the New Republic
“The Missing Men: Why didn’t a Rolling Stone writer talk to the alleged perpetrators of a gang rape at the University of Virginia?” by Allison Benedikt and Hanna Rosin, December 2 in Slate.
“Rolling Stone’s omission in U-VA article proves problematic: It should serve as a warning to journalists who report on rape to be extra cautious” by Lene Bech Sillesen, December 2 in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review.
“Why It Was Right to Question Rolling Stone’s U-VA Rape Story” by Michael Moynihan, December 5 at the Daily Beast.
In his pointed article, Moynihan intoned:
One cannot wade into issues like this, it seems, without standing accused of wanting to uncover a hoax in an order to deny the existence of sexual assault on campus. On the cruder end, those investigating Jackie’s claims are being denounced as “rape denialists” complicit in “rape victim smearing”.
That word “denialism” is particularly profane, with its unsubtle invocation of the Holocaust. And it doesn’t take long for subtlety to be ditched in favor of the blunt instrument of Reductio ad Hitlerum.
If you think something doesn’t smell right about the story, keep those doubts to yourself; if not, get ready to be accused of being complicit in creating a culture of fear that silences rape victims.
Back in the 1990s, a dean at Vassar College told Time magazine that a false accusation is not only an acceptable price to pay, but might even benefit the falsely accused: “[The wrongly accused] have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.”
After these critical and more responsibly investigated articles appeared, particularly the Washington Post’s due diligence in seeking out those who were involved in the alleged incident in 2012, which Erderly forsook, Rolling Stone was forced to issue an apology:
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 U-VA 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.
After receiving scathing criticism for seemingly shifting the blame to Jackie for being unworthy of trust (which has since been established to be true), the Rolling Stone apology was changed twice. The final paragraph was replaced with this:
In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account. The fraternity has issued a formal statement denying the assault and asserting that there was no “date function or formal event” on the night in question. Jackie herself is now unsure if the man she says lured her into the room where the rape occurred, identified in the story as “Drew,” was a Phi Psi brother. According to the Washington Post, “Drew” actually belongs to a different fraternity and when contacted by the paper, he denied knowing Jackie. Jackie told Rolling Stone that after she was assaulted, she ran into “Drew” at a UVA pool where they both worked as lifeguards. In its statement, Phi Psi says none of its members worked at the pool in the fall of 2012. A friend of Jackie’s (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone) told the Washington Post that he found Jackie that night a mile from the school’s fraternities. She did not appear to be “physically injured at the time” but was shaken. She told him that that she had been forced to have oral sex with a group of men at a fraternity party, but he does not remember her identifying a specific house. Other friends of Jackie’s told the Washington Post that they now have doubts about her narrative, but Jackie told the Washington Post that she firmly stands by the account she gave to Erdely.
We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie’s request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. 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.
However, as late as December 2, Rolling Stone was still defending their work, with Erdely telling the NY Times that “I am convinced that it could not have been done any other way, or any better. I am also not interested in diverting the conversation away from the point of the piece itself.”
The real scandal, she said, is that the university administration did not pursue the accusations further, ignoring that Dean Nicole Eramo, head of U-VA’s Sexual Misconduct Board to whom Jackie had gone, offered the student three options – from filing a police report to either a formal campus adjudication or an informal dialogue with the accused students and some kind of sanction – none of which Jackie accepted.
Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana had written:”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 “How Rolling Stone failed in its story of alleged rape at the University of Virginia”, Paul Farhi of the Washington Post wrote about Dana’s statement that “like the story itself, is not entirely accurate”:
In interviews with The Washington Post and Slate, Erdely never asserted that she had agreed not to speak to the men in question – only that she wouldn’t name them in her story or talk about them afterward. Jackie “asked me not to name the individuals because she’s so fearful of them,” she told The Post. “That was something we agreed to. She was nervous to name the fraternity, too. I told her, ‘If we’re trying to shine light on this, we have to name the fraternity.’ ”
In fact, Erdely and her editor, Sean Woods, later acknowledged that the magazine had tried to find the men but failed to do so. “We did not talk to them,” Woods said. “We could not reach them.”
That should have been a red flag. In essence, neither writer nor editor could warrant that the men alleged to have committed a terrible crime actually existed.
Earlier this week, according to Lene Bech Sillesen of the Columbia Journalism Review, the editor of the Rolling Stone story, Sean Woods, told the Washington Post about the men Jackie was accusing: “I’m satisfied that these guys exist and are real. We knew who they were.” But the Washington Post reported later that Jackie never told anyone who they were until the first week of December.
Later, on December 5, Dana tweeted that Rolling Stone should have “either not made this agreement with Jackie,” or “worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story.”
As Washington Post media correspondent, Erik Wemple, wrote, “The story and Erdely’s comments about it, moreover, suggest an effort to produce impact journalism… In the case, of Erdely’s piece, however, there’s ample evidence of poisonous biases that landed Rolling Stone in what should be an existential crisis.”
In an unsigned opinion piece titled “Like a Rolling Stone: A charge of rape at U-VA unravels, and so does a political narrative” in the December 6 Wall Street Journal, the author writes:
The larger problem, however, is that Ms. Erderly was, by her own admission, looking for a story to fit a pre-existing narrative – in this case, the supposed epidemic of sexual assault at elite universities, along with the presumed indifference of those schools to the problem. As the Washington Post noted in an admiring profile of Ms. Erdely, she interviewed students at several elite universities before alighting on U-VA, “a public school, Southern and genteel”.
In other words, Ms. Erdely did not construct a story based on facts, but went looking for facts to fit her theory.
In yet another stunning example of confirmation bias, Kat Stoeffel published “The U-VA Gang-Rape Backlash Is a Trap for Feminists”, in New York Magazine’s The Cut on December 3:
From Reason to The New Republic, journalists are fretting about the sourcing hazards of a narrative story about a sexual assault that depends heavily on the victim’s account, in case this one turns out to be an elaborate hoax. Their skepticism of writer Sabrina Erdely mirrors the disproportionate scrutiny that sexual assault victims face at the hands of the police. …
And compared with how many sexual assaults go unreported, there’s an outsize paranoia about false reports of rape, which has been frustratingly hard to shut down empirically. As Megan McArdle explained, it’s a “dark number,” possibly unknowable. Also mysterious is the motive a woman would have for fabricating a gang rape, talking about it in a campus support group, then anonymously sharing it with a journalist… Jackie stands to gain neither fame nor revenge. Aside from some canceled parties, no young man’s future has been imperiled by the story. …
At this point, the benefits of believing Jackie if she is telling the truth (forcing reform at U-VA, encouraging other women to come forward) outweigh the risks of believing Jackie if she is lying (unnecessary wariness about Phi Kappa Psi)…
Meanwhile, the journalist backlash is putting feminists who believe in believing women in the uncomfortable position of hoping Jackie told the truth about her gang rape. Not because we want to confirm our biases about monstrous men, but because we’d hate to see confirmation for sexist biases about lying, attention-seeking women… If anything, we should hope that Jackie is lying. Then exactly zero lives will have been ruined in this story.
My comment to Stoeffel’s revelatory screed was:
In fact, anti-rape activists and rape-victim advocates ARE always looking to confirm their bias, just as Erderly did in her yellow journalism article.
The perception of “lying, attention seeking women” is NOT from bias, but from the best research done on false rape allegations, which have been proven to be as high as 50% on college campuses.
Unfounded and False Rape Allegations
Anti-rape activists routinely state that the rate of false rape allegations is 2%.
FBI reports consistently put the number of “unfounded” rape accusations (“unfounded” meaning that police investigation did not support the claim) at around 8%. That rate is, however, four times the average rate of unfounded reports for all FBI Index crimes.
Objective and conservative studies have shown a far higher proportion of documented false rape allegations: McDowell (Air Force, 1985) 27%, Buckley (DC, 1992) 24%, Kanin (small Midwestern town in which polygraphs were used, 1994) 41%, Kanin (two large Midwestern state universities) 50%. The allegations were determined to be false only upon credible recantation by the complainant, often just before being offered a polygraph test or after failing a polygraph test.
In the McDowell Study, a follow-up evaluation was performed on the “inconclusive” cases by three independent reviewers, based on a list of 25 criteria that were common among the women who had acknowledged they lied. In order for any of the inconclusive cases to be recategorized as false, all three independent reviewers had to agree that it was false. This increased the percentage of false allegations to 60%.
In the study of false rape allegations in the Midwestern town and state universities, more than half of the accusers fabricated the rape to serve as a “cover story” or alibi, following consensual sex with an acquaintance that led to some sort of problem for the accuser, such as contracting a sexually transmitted disease or becoming pregnant. The next most common reason was revenge, rage, or retribution (27% of the non-student and 44% of the student accusers). The Air Force study also found that spite or revenge and the need to compensate for a sense of personal failure were the primary motives for false rape reports.
Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck are prominent criminal attorneys and co-founders of the Innocence Project that seeks to release those falsely imprisoned. They stated, “Every year since 1989, in about 25% of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have ‘matched’ or included the primary suspect.”
The authors continued, “these percentages have remained constant for 7 years, and the National Institute of Justice’s informal survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly similar 26% exclusion rate.”
Wendy McElroy, the editor of ifeminists.com, a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland CA, and the editor of Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (2002) wrote:
“Several years ago, I tried to track down the origin of the much-cited statistic that two percent of all rape reports are false. The first instance I found of the figure was in Susan Brownmiller’s book on sexual assault entitled Against Our Will (1975). Brownmiller claimed that false accusations in New York City had dropped to 2% after police departments began using policewomen to interview alleged victims. Elsewhere, the 2% figure appears without citation or with only a vague attribution to ‘FBI’ sources. Although the figure shows up in legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, legal scholar Michelle Anderson of Villanova University Law School reported in 2004, “no study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the 2% false rape complaint thesis.”
Biased Crime Data
Effective January 1, 2013, the FBI changed the definition of rape that is used in the collection of national crime statistics. The old definition was “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” The new definition of rape is: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
While this new definition of criminal rape for the first time eliminates the female-only blinders, it is still limited to penetration of the victim and excludes male victims “made to penetrate” a female perpetrator (which a 2011 CDC study indicates happens at least as often to men as rape happens to women).
Rape of Males
If any unwanted or not fully consensual sexual activity is defined now as rape, then more men then women are victims of rape and most of their victimizers are women.
An article about college students published in the Journal of Sex Research Vol. 31, No. 2 (1994), noted that Muehlenhard and Cook (1988) found that 46% of women and 63% of men had acquiesced to unwanted sexual intercourse, while Muehlenhard and Long (1988) also found that more men (49%) than women (40%) had engaged in unwanted sex. Muehlenhard and Rodgers (1993) found that 34% of women reported having engaged in token resistance to sex, in which they said “no” when they really desired to have sex. US women acknowledge a 55% rate of consent to unwanted sex, which is consistent with the findings of 50% false rape allegations in university studies.
[Charlene L. Muehlenhard, PhD, the author of all those studies, is a Professor of Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Fellow in Three Divisions of the American Psychological Association (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Society for the Psychology of Women, Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues), and a Fellow in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality]
According to a 2014 paper published in the American Psychological Association journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 43% of high school and college-aged men say they’ve had “unwanted sexual contact”, and 95% of those say a female acquaintance was the aggressor.
Researchers found that 18% reported sexual coercion by force (including by use of weapon), 31% said they were verbally coerced into sex, 26% said they’d experienced unwanted seduction, and 7% said they were compelled after being given alcohol or drugs.
Dr. Bryana French, who teaches counseling psychology and black studies at University of Missouri and co-authored the study, says that male victims are often less willing to describe sexual coercion in detail, “but when asked if it happened, they say it happened”.
French said, “Seduction was a particularly salient and potentially unique form of coercion for teenage boys and young men when compared to their female counterparts.”
The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions is co-authored by Lara Stemple, Health and Human Rights Law Project, UCLA, and Ilan H. Meyer, Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.
The authors assessed 12-month prevalence of sexual victimization from five federal surveys conducted, independently, by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2010 through 2012. The review of these surveys provides an unprecedented wealth of new data about male victimization, challenging long-held stereotypes about the sex of victims.
In one of the studies included in the analysis, the CDC found that an estimated 1.3 million women experienced nonconsensual sex, or rape, in the previous year. Notably, nearly the same number of men also reported nonconsensual sex. In comparison to the number of women who were raped, nearly 1.3 million men were “made to penetrate” someone else. The CDC data reveal that both women and men experienced nonconsensual sex in alarming and equal numbers.
The study also included the 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey, which found that 38% of all reported rape and sexual assault incidents were committed against males, an increase over past years that challenges the common belief that males are rarely victims of this crime.
“These findings are striking, yet misconceptions about male victimization persist. We identified reasons for this, which include the over-reliance on traditional gender stereotypes, outdated and inconsistent definitions used by some federal agencies, and methodological sampling biases.”
The 2011 CDC analysis referred to in the 2014 report found that 6.7% of men (7.6 million) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else, and that 82.6% of male victims of “made to penetrate” events and 80% of male victims of sexual coercion reported female perpetrators, meaning they were raped by a woman, according to the current and broadly accepted definition of rape as any unwanted sexual encounter.
The CDC report’s statistics for the preceding 12 months showed that a higher percentage of men were “made to penetrate” (1.7%) than women were raped (1.6%), such that if you properly include “made to penetrate” in the definition of rape, men were raped by women at least as often as women were raped by men.
The Problem of “Gray Rape”
A 2014 White House report on campus rape states that, when women report unwanted sexual activity, “most often (about 9 out of 10 times) it’s by someone she knows – and also most often, she does not report what happened” because in half of all cases they “don’t call what happened to them rape”. They don’t call it rape because it involves an acquaintance and ambiguous or vague consent.
In the 1994 book, The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism, author Katie Roiphe asserted, “There is a gray area in which one person’s rape may be another’s bad night.”
Laura Sessions Stepp, Washington Post journalist, wrote a 2007 article on “gray rape” describing sexual encounters where usually both parties were very drunk and really didn’t know what they had said to each other the next morning. In such cases, consent by either party is uncertain, but the standard today is that only the man is held accountable for the consequences.
A research report in the May, 1988 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that undergraduate college women saying “no” but meaning “yes” was acknowledged by 39.3% of the women, with reasons being either practical, inhibition-related, or manipulative.
A research report in the March 1995 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that 83% of token resistant women had more than one sexual intention during the episode, and the authors concluded that most token resistant behavior is a change of intention that is poorly recalled because of memory consolidation.
Gynocentrism, Misandry and The Pernicious Myth of “Rape Culture”
What this sordid episode in journalistic advocacy revealed is the depth and breadth of penetration into America’s cultural institutions – from popular culture to academia, media and government – of the memes of women as victim and men as vicious. So much is this true, that an otherwise exceptional journalist could publish such a story without fact-checking because it not only confirmed her own biases but it was assumed that her bias was so widely shared that no one would challenge it.
Sabrina Rubin Erdely is a two-time National Magazine Award nominee – the writer’s equivalent of an Academy Award and just short of Pulitzer in the journalism trade. She’s a University lecturer, teaching courses at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania and at Temple University. And she writes for the likes of The New Yorker, GQ and Mother Jones.
“She’s one of the most thorough reporters I’ve ever worked with,” said Eliot Kaplan, who hired Erdely at Philadelphia Magazine in 1994. “She’s not a shortcut-taker – very precise, diligent.” Kaplan, now vice president of talent acquisition at Hearst Magazines, recalled that Erdely wrote a number of true-crime stories for him, including one about an obstetrician who molested his patients, and another about a professor’s affair with a student.
Later, at Self magazine, Erdely was the go-to reporter for sensitive issues, according to Sara Austin, her editor there. “She’s hands-down one of the best and smartest journalists I’ve ever worked with,” said Austin, now a senior deputy editor at Cosmopolitan. “She did incredible work for us on very complicated investigations, dealing with people who had often been through illness or trauma or both.”
Lisa DePaulo, a former colleague of Erdely’s at Philadelphia Magazine and a writer at Bloomberg Politics, was incredulous about the attacks on Erdely’s reporting. “As far as I know, there’s never been a piece of hers that was sloppy,” she said. “She’s an absolute pro.”
Yet this widely-respected “pro” overlooked or failed to investigate the most obvious flaws in Jackie’s narrative.
In “Key elements of Rolling Stone’s U-VA gang rape allegations in doubt” by T. Rees Shapiro on December 5 in the Washington Post, these inconsistencies and red flags were detailed:
A group of Jackie’s close friends, who are sex assault awareness advocates at U-VA, said they believe something traumatic happened to her, but they also 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 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… and that other details about his background did not match up with information Jackie had disclosed earlier about her perpetrator.
Phi Kappa Psi said it did not host “a date function or social event” during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012, the night that Jackie alleges she was invited to a date party, lured into an upstairs room and was then ambushed and gang-raped by seven men who were rushing the fraternity.
The fraternity also said that it has reviewed the roster of employees at the university’s Aquatic and Fitness Center for 2012 and found that it does not list a member of the fraternity – 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. The statement also said that the house does not have pledges during the fall semester.
Reached by phone, the man named “Drew” whom Jackie described as her date and rape ringleader, a U-VA graduate, said that he did work at the Aquatic and Fitness Center and was familiar with Jackie’s name, but that he had never met Jackie in person and had never taken her on a date. He also said that he was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
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.
Emily Renda was a U-VA senior when she first met Jackie in the fall of 2013. In an interview, Renda said she immediately connected with Jackie as they discussed the bond they shared as rape survivors. Renda said she was raped her freshman year after attending a fraternity party. Renda said Thursday [December 4] that Jackie initially told her that she was attacked by five students at Phi Kappa Psi on Sept. 28, 2012. Renda said that she learned months later that Jackie had changed the number of attackers from five to seven.
A student identified as “Andy” in the Rolling Stone article (but who said he never spoke to a Rolling Stone reporter) said that Jackie did call him and two other friends for help a few weeks into the fall semester in 2012, that Jackie said “something bad happened”, that Jackie seemed “really upset, really shaken up”, but disputed other details of that article’s account. Rolling Stone said that the three friends found Jackie in a “bloody dress,” with the Phi Kappa Psi house looming in the background, and that they debated “the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape” before advising against seeking help. He said none of that is accurate.
“Andy” stated that Jackie said she had been at a fraternity party and had been forced to perform oral sex on a group of men, but he does not remember her identifying a specific house. He said he did not notice any injuries or blood, but said the group offered to get her help. She, instead, wanted to return to her dorm, and he and the friends spent the night with her to comfort her at her request.
In “The Missing Men: Why didn’t a Rolling Stone writer talk to the alleged perpetrators of a gang rape at the University of Virginia?”, Allison Benedikt and Hanna Rosin (December 2) wrote:
We’ve interviewed many of Jackie’s friends, including some who were quoted in the Rolling Stone story. They verified that Jackie did get very upset when Erdely wanted to find out more about the alleged assailants. Sara Surface, a good friend of Jackie’s and a member of One Less, a victim advocacy group at U-VA, had the impression that Jackie’s reaction was “extreme” when Erdely pressed her – meaning that Jackie became so terrified that she reconsidered going public with her story, even anonymously.
As Jackie had already made her story relatively public within the U-VA community, this “extreme” reaction to publicity of the specifics of her story may suggest a sudden attack of conscience or the realization that her inconsistencies and evolving narrative would be exposed.
In “What the U-VA Rape Case Tells Us About a Victim Culture Gone Mad” by Lizzie Crocker on December 5 in the Daily Beast, she reports:
Rolling Stone’s admission that its college rape story contained ‘discrepancies’ shows how victim-centric our culture has become – to the exclusion of asking vital questions.
And therein lies the problem: in valorizing Jackie’s trauma as a victim of rape (never mind that she was and remains an alleged victim), Rolling Stone ignored glaring holes in a story that was too good to check.
When journalists did scrutinize what they viewed as weak and one-sided reporting, they were met with accusations of victim-blaming. Some likened their skepticism of Erdely’s piece to police casting undeserved doubt on an alleged rape victim’s story.
We live in a culture that valorizes victims – where to question one woman’s claims of sexual abuse is to be a “rape apologist”…
Question them, and you are colluding in exacerbating the awful effects of their trauma. Question their actions or motives and you are “victim shaming” and “victim blaming”.
“Playing the victim” used to be a term of scorn, now it’s a daily modus operandi to score any number of political and cultural points.
Question those taking on the mantle of victimhood and you are immediately cast as some kind of aggressive, unfeeling oppressor. The sad consequence of a culture of victimhood is that it obscures real victims and obscures the genuinely felt experiences of those victims, whatever they have endured.
The sad and awful truth revealed in the undercurrents of the Rolling Stone tsunami is that a movement which began as a women’s liberation struggle for equal rights and recognition, sparked by Quaker abolitionists who believed that all were equal in God’s eyes – such as Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony – has devolved into an ideology of female victimization at the hands of men and patriarchy. Such an ideology, and the movement built around it, actually diminishes the status of women while vilifying the character of men, thereby militating against the kind of egalitarian and just community that the original feminists envisioned.
The fallout of such devolution or regression to the “mean” (as in nasty and malicious), is just the sort of credulous yellow journalism that Rolling Stone published, in the certain belief that its core message would not be challenged. It is a sign of some hope that such disreputable journalism has been confronted, but that it’s the journalistic ethic more than the (possibly) false rape allegation that is being addressed renders that hope slim indeed.
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS – STORY CONTINUES TO UNRAVEL
In a December 10 Washington Post article, U-Va. students challenge Rolling Stone account of alleged sexual assault By T. Rees Shapiro, further inconsistencies emerge from Jackie’s friends.
Here are the most salient points:
It was 1 AM on a Saturday when the call came from a friend, a University of Virginia freshman who earlier said she had a date that evening with a handsome junior from her chemistry class, was in hysterics. Something bad had happened.
Arriving at her side, three students – “Randall”, “Andy” and “Cindy”, as they were identified in the Rolling Stone account – told The Washington Post that they found their friend in tears. Jackie appeared traumatized, saying her date ended horrifically, with the older student parking his car at his fraternity, asking her to come inside and then forcing her to perform oral sex on five men.
In their first interviews about the events of that September 2012 night, the three friends separately told The Post that their recollections of the encounter diverge from how Rolling Stone portrayed the incident in a story about Jackie’s alleged gang rape at a U-VA fraternity. The three students agreed to be interviewed on the condition that The Post use the same aliases that appeared in Rolling Stone because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Although they did not notice any blood or visible injuries, the friends said they immediately urged Jackie to speak to police and insisted that they find her help. Instead, they said, Jackie declined and asked to be taken back to her dorm room. They went with her – two said they spent the night – seeking to comfort Jackie in what appeared to be a moment of extreme turmoil.
The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the Rolling Stone’s reporters or editors. Although vilified in the article as coldly indifferent to Jackie’s ordeal, the students said they cared deeply about their friend’s well-being and safety.
They said there are mounting inconsistencies with the original narrative in the magazine. The students also expressed suspicions about Jackie’s allegations from that night. They said the name she provided as that of her date did not match anyone at the university, and U-VA officials confirmed to The Post that no one by that name has attended the school.
Also, photographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hasn’t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.
They also said information Jackie gave the three friends about one of her attackers, called “Drew” in the magazine’s article, differ significantly from details she later told The Post, Rolling Stone and friends from sexual assault awareness groups on campus. The three said Jackie did not specifically identify a fraternity that night.
The Rolling Stone article also said that Randall declined to be interviewed, “citing his loyalty to his own frat”. He told The Post that he was never contacted by Rolling Stone and would have agreed to an interview.
Randall said he met Jackie shortly after arriving at U-VA in fall 2012 and the two struck up a quick friendship. He said Jackie was interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him; he valued her friendship but wasn’t interested in more.
The three friends said Jackie soon began talking about a handsome junior from chemistry class who had a crush on her and had been asking her out on dates. Intrigued, Jackie’s friends got his phone number from her and began exchanging text messages with the mysterious upperclassman, who raved to them about “this super smart hot” freshman. Some of the messages included photographs of a man with a sculpted jaw line and ocean-blue eyes. The student texted that he was jealous that another student had apparently won Jackie’s attention.
Randall said it is apparent to him that he is the “first year” student that the chemistry upperclassman described in text messages, since he had rebuffed Jackie’s advances.
Jackie told her three friends that she accepted the upperclassman’s invitation for a dinner date on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. Curious about Jackie’s date, the friends said that they tried to find the student on a U-VA database and social media but failed. Andy, Cindy and Randall all said they never met the student in person. Before Jackie’s date, the friends became suspicious that perhaps they hadn’t really been in contact with the chemistry student at all, they said.
After the alleged attack, the chemistry student whom Jackie identified as her date wrote an e-mail to Randall, passing along praise that Jackie apparently had for him.
U-VA officials told The Post that no student with the name Jackie provided to her friends as her date and attacker in 2012 had ever enrolled at the university.
Randall provided The Post with pictures that Jackie’s purported date had sent of himself by text message in 2012. The Post identified the person in the pictures and learned that his name does not match the one Jackie gave friends in 2012. In an interview, the man said he was Jackie’s high school classmate but “never really spoke to her”.
The man said he was never a U-VA student and is not a member of any fraternity. Additionally, he said that he had not visited Charlottesville in at least six years and that he was in another state participating in an athletic event during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012.
Last week, for the first time, Jackie revealed a name of her main alleged attacker to other friends who had known her more recently, those recent friends said. That name was different from the name she gave Andy, Cindy and Randall that first night.
On Friday, The Post interviewed a man whose name is similar to the second one Jackie used for her main attacker. He said that although he was a lifeguard at the same time as Jackie, he had never met her in person and never taken her out on a date. He also said that he was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
ABC News scooped other news outlets with the December 11 revelation of the names and faces of the three friends, described in the Rolling Stone article, who came to her aid the night of the alleged incident.
Kathryn Hendley is “Cindy”, Alex Stock is “Andy”, Ryan (whose last name was withheld at his request) is identified as “Randall” in the Rolling Stone article.
They said at the time they believed a “traumatic” sex assault had occurred. But the two male friends said they were told on the night of September 28, 2012 that Jackie was forced to perform oral sex on five men while a sixth stood by.
The friends pointed out another inconsistency in the Rolling Stone article, saying that the three of them were not standing right next to each other when Jackie revealed what she said happened on the night of the attack, as author Sabrina Erdely writes in the magazine.
Ryan (whom Jackie had apparently been trying to woo) said he got the call from Jackie first and rushed to meet her outside a dorm building. She was “crying and shaking” when she told him what happened, and he then called Alex, but relayed Jackie’s wishes that Cindy not come.
Kathryn said she accompanied Alex when he went to see Jackie, but said that she hung back when Jackie spoke to the two men. Kathryn said that, later that night, Alex told her what Jackie said, and then Jackie later described the incident herself.
Kathryn also denied one cruel comment the Rolling Stone article alleges she made: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.” Kathryn told ABC News she definitely did not say that.
The article describes Jackie sinking into depression after the alleged rape, and holing up in her dorm room. Not so, say her friends, who told ABC News she seemed fine after the alleged assault.
“I couldn’t help but notice that everything that the article said about me was incorrect,” said Ryan Duffin, who was identified in the Rolling Stone story as “Randall”.
As described by Ryan Duffin to the AP, this is what happened: He had returned home from a party when he got a call from Jackie. He left to meet her and she was sitting on the top of a picnic table outside U-VA’s Tuttle-Dunnington dorm. She was shaking and “it looked like she had been crying,” Duffin said. “Her lip was quivering, her eyes were darting around. And right then, I put two and two together. I knew she had been on this date and people don’t usually look like that after a date.”
Jackie eventually told Duffin her version of what she said had happened that night.
“My first reaction was, ‘We need to go to police,'” he said. “I wanted to go to police immediately. I was really forceful on that, actually. And I almost took it to calling (the police) right there.” He said he had his phone out, prepared to call 9-1-1, “but she didn’t want to and,” he remembers thinking, “‘I can’t do that if she doesn’t want to do it.'”
Alex Stock corroborated this version of events.
“Jackie’s response was, ‘I don’t want to,'” Stock said. “‘I don’t want to do that right now. I just want to go to bed.'”
Feeling hamstrung by Jackie’s refusal to go to authorities, Duffin said that days later he sought advice from his dorm’s resident assistant. Careful not to mention Jackie by name, so the RA wouldn’t be obligated to contact police, he said he asked if he should call police even though Jackie didn’t want him to. The RA told Duffin that he should encourage Jackie to talk with police, but that Duffin couldn’t force her to do so.
The RA, who asked not to be named, confirmed Duffin’s story to the AP.
Yet more explosive revelations have come from a December 15 Washington Times expose by Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, “Friends of U-VA Rape Accuser Raise Fresh Doubts about Story, Citing Phone Records“:
Three friends of the alleged University of Virginia rape victim are growing more skeptical about her account, saying they have doubts about information she gave them and why she belatedly tried to get herself deleted from the Rolling Stone article.
The friends say Jackie first gave them a cellphone number in fall 2012, shortly before they came to her aid when she reported she was gang-raped at a fraternity house. All four were freshmen at the time, striking up a friendship in their first weeks on campus.
Eventually, the friends ended up with three numbers for the man. All are registered to Internet services that enable people to text without cellphone numbers but also can be used to redirect calls to different numbers or engage in spoofing, according to multiple research databases checked by The Washington Times.
The friends say Jackie also gave them the name “Haven” as the first name of the upperclassman she was seeing shortly before the purported attack, but they haven’t been able to find anyone by that name enrolled on the campus or even living in the area.
The friends said they believed that Jackie may have had a crush on Mr. Duffin but that he was interested only in friendship, and that the mystery upperclassman entered the picture shortly afterward.
Mr. Stock told The Times that Jackie was “extremely sad” that Mr. Duffin would not escalate their relationship beyond a friendship. A few days later, Jackie told her three friends that she had an admirer in her chemistry class, the upperclassman she called Haven.
Mr. Stock said Jackie “was receptive to the whole idea” of the three texting with her new admirer, but noted that he found it “suspicious” that during the text exchanges, Haven “would always steer the conversation back to Ryan”. Mr. Duffin said his experience texting with Haven was similar.
Kathryn Hendley explained that the three friends began using the phone numbers to text Haven because they were “curious” about the upperclassman. Now, they don’t know what to think about that part of her story, the friends said.
“That definitely raises some red flags,” Alex Stock, a University of Virginia junior and friend of Jackie, told The Times. “I think as more details come out I definitely feel a little more skeptical. This is all new territory for me. I’m not too technologically savvy.”
When told the cellphone numbers were traced to the Internet services, Ms. Hendley remarked: “Wow, really? That’s interesting. It’s news to me. “I think as the story has moved along it has raised some new doubts,” she said.
“As the investigation goes on, more and more aspects of the story are coming into question; the aggregate of all this evidence is increasing doubt,” Ryan Duffin said.
The cellphone number, when matched through telephone databases, is an Internet phone number that came through on two of the friends’ phones with an Internet domain attached. Several database phone searches confirmed that Internet domain matches an Internet phone and SMS text service called Pinger.
Internet phone numbers enable the user to make calls or send SMS text messages to telephones from a computer or iPad while creating the appearance that they are coming from a real phone. They also let users create multiple, untraceable phone numbers for little or no cost while concealing their true identity.
Mr. Duffin told The Times that Jackie gave him one cellphone number to text, but when he sent the first text, he received no response. Instead, he received a response from a second phone number he did not recognize. The sender announced himself as Haven explaining that his phone was not working so he was texting from a friend’s phone. Haven then said he would start texting from a third number that was his BlackBerry device, according to the friends.
The Times called all three numbers supplied by the friends. The third ‘BlackBerry’ number was forwarded to a voice mail with a female voice asking the caller to leave a message, and the other two were “not in service.”
All three phone numbers were labeled as an “Internet Phone” on a database background check; two were labeled as “Pinger Internet Phone,” and the other from “Enflick Internet Phone”.
On Pinger’s home page, the company writes, “Pinger gives you your own real phone number so you can call or SMS [text] any phone, even if they don’t have Pinger. Call or text from your phone, iPod, iPad or computer.” Another page says, “Free texting from the Web – get a free texting number, send free unlimited texts.”
Enflick Internet Phone’s home page says, “Our free app turns any WiFi enabled device into a phone. We also sell a low cost all-IP phone from TextNow.com for those who want to text and call even without WiFi.”
As Washington Post investigative journalist Erik Wemple details in “Rolling Stone’s U-Va. story: What about the other two alleged gang rapes?” on December 15:
In addition to describing Jackie’s alleged assault, the Rolling Stone piece follows her through interactions with rape survivors and with the university administration. Thanks to her “ever expanding network,” writes Erdely, “Jackie had come across something deeply disturbing: two other young women who, she says, confided that they, too, had recently been Phi Kappa Psi gang-rape victims.” In May 2014, the story notes, Jackie apprised Associate Dean of Students Nicole P. Eramo of these gang-rape allegations.
“We haven’t been able to find any information regarding those” allegations, says Shawn Collinsworth, executive director of Phi Kappa Psi. Reports of the additional two gang rapes, Collinsworth’s group was told by the university, came exclusively from Jackie.
Erderly’s failure to substantiate those additional stories is reduced to “Neither woman was willing to talk to RS.” But we already know that such a claim almost certainly means that Erdely never made any attempt to contact them and relied exclusively on Jackie for confirmation.
From the Rolling Stone story:
“A bruise still mottling her face, Jackie sat in Eramo’s office in May 2014 and told her about the two others. One, she says, is a 2013 graduate, who’d told Jackie that she’d been gang-raped as a freshman at the Phi Psi house. The other was a first-year whose worried friends had called Jackie after the girl had come home wearing no pants. Jackie said the girl told her she’d been assaulted by four men in a Phi Psi bathroom while a fifth watched. (Neither woman was willing to talk to RS.)”
In a December 17 article, “Friends’ accounts differ significantly from victim in UVA rape story“, CNN reported:
Was Haven Monahan a real person?
Ryan Duffin and Alex Stock told CNN they remember a starkly different account than what appeared in Rolling Stone. Their version cast doubt over whether the man who allegedly orchestrated the attack even existed.
“I mean there are definitely some major holes in the story,” said Stock. “I think that that was pretty clear in the Rolling Stone piece… It was almost too perfect of a story.”
Since summer orientation in 2012, Stock, Duffin and another freshman, Kathryn Hendley, had become friends with Jackie.
Duffin said Jackie was much more interested in him than he in her. He said he was happy when Jackie told friends that an upperclassman in her chemistry class asked her on a date.
Duffin and Stock decided to learn more about the upperclassman and check to “see if he’s OK,” Duffin said. Jackie gave them the phone number for the man, whom she identified as Haven Monahan.
Stock and Duffin said they sent him text messages and pretended to be another student from chemistry class. Monahan purportedly texted back, saying of Jackie, “I really like her,” and describing her as “super smart .. hot” and liking the same music as he. At one point, he even sent a photo of himself (the photo matched that of a man who went to high school with Jackie in Stafford, Virginia).
Duffin never suspected Monahan may not be a real person. “No,” Duffin said, “at the time, it all seemed very real.”
Jackie said she went on a date with Monahan the evening in late September 2012, when Rolling Stone reported that she was raped.
The Rolling Stone article described how she was beaten, struck about the face and left barefoot and bloodied. That’s not what her friends remember.
“I didn’t notice any sort of physical injuries,” Duffin said. “I didn’t notice a lack of shoes. I really didn’t notice anything that was consistent with the physical description that was in the article.”
Said Stock, “If there had been major injuries the way the article portrays, I think I would have remembered that.”
Five days later, Duffin said he inexplicably received an email titled “About You” from Haven, the man allegedly behind the alleged sexual assault. (When CNN tried the email address, the message came back “undeliverable.”)
“It was from Haven Monahan … and it looked like Haven had written, ‘You should read this, I’ve never read anything nicer in my life,’ with a page worth — an essay — that Jackie had written about me,” Duffin said. “Which seemed really weird to me, even at the time, because here’s somebody who allegedly just led a brutal sexual assault on a friend of mine, and now he’s going to email me this thing about me?”
Jackie told her friends that Monahan dropped out of the university after the assault, but a university record check by CNN revealed that no one by that name ever attended the university. Another check found no one by that name in the United States.
“There’s a very good chance whoever I was texting was Jackie,” Stock said. “There’s a definite possibility.”
It’s Time for a U-VA Apology – Op-Ed from a 25-year U-VA professor and his U-VA junior son
EMAIL FORWARDED FROM “HAVEN” TO RYAN DUFFIN
Nota Bene: This was reported as an exclusive in the Daily Caller, which is a far right news site that wrote a demonstrably false story in 2012 about a Democratic Senator’s involvement with Dominican prostitutes, who later claimed they had been paid to lie by a representative of the Daily Caller (the FBI found no evidence to support the story’s allegations and the Daily Caller denied the claims of bribery and falsification). At this point, the text of this email has not been corroborated by any mainstream news source, but what the Daily Caller published (below) looks identical to the slightly blurry email presented in a CNN video interview with Ryan & Alex, and the subject header of the email was reported in the CNN story.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Haven Monahan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 8:33 PM
Subject: about u
To: “——@virginia.edu” <——@virginia.edu>
you should read this. iv never read anything nicer in my life.
Well yeah…Ryan is fine. Ryan’s great, actually. I mean he’s smart. He’s attractive. He’s funny. He’s a scaredy cat. If you creep up behind him, he’ll jump right out of his skin. It’s pretty amusing. He’s honest. He always calls them just like he sees them. You can constantly count on getting the truth from Ryan, even if the truth hurts. He has the most incredible taste in music. He’s like this walking, talking music library. And he understands how truly important music is. He’s stubborn. He has this regimented way about him that can be so frustrating sometimes. And sometimes the things he says hurt. But he’s a really, really good friend. And loyal to a fault. He’s realistic about everything. And I’m a dreamer so I mean, it’s good to have somebody like that in my life. He’s one of my best friends here, you know? He’s more than that …he’s everything
So, then there’s Ryan. And Ryan…Ryan’s incredible. I didn’t fall for Ryan Duffin the first day I met him. Nor did I fall for him on the second day or the third day for that matter. But once I did fall for Ryan, you see, my world flipped upside down. Kathryn doesn’t understand what I see in Ryan. I guess I don’t understand what she doesn’t see in him. He’s gorgeous, but gorgeous is an understatement. More like you’re startled every time you see him because you notice something new in a Where’s Waldo sort of way. More like you can’t stop writing third grade run on sentences because you can’t even remotely begin to describe something, someone, so inherently amazing. More like you’re afraid that if you stare at him too long, you’ll prove your grandparents right that, yes, your face will get stuck that way…but you don’t mind. You, like everyone else, may think I’m exaggerating, but then again, you probably don’t know Ryan Duffin. Ryan has no idea what he does to me…he can make me feel more emotions in one second then I would normally feel in one year. He makes my head spin. And the truth is, I’m crazy about him. I mean, if I had the choice of hanging out with anyone in the entire world or just sitting in my dorm with him talking about music and watching a crappy TV show…I’d choose him everytime…without a single false step. I know he doesn’t like me. If someone really wanted you, they’d actually put some time and effort into trying to get your attention. Ryan doesn’t even like to be around me sometimes. And that really sucks. When you like someone more than he likes you, you’ll do anything to switch the scales. The thing is, you can’t. You want to tell him how you feel but you know it will end with “It’s just not going to work out.” How can I explain to him that I fell for him because of a million tiny things he never knew he was doing? I know I should just stop trying because he and I are never going to happen. He doesn’t like me, I’m not his type, I’m not the type of person he could ever be with so I should just get over it. The problem is I can’t shake these feelings I have for him, I try so damn hard, but they won’t go away. I can’t move on because the only thing I can find wrong with him, is that he can find so much wrong with me. [Redacted] said I shouldn’t give up. She said she read this quote once that said, “There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” She claimed that’s how Ryan and I are. I think she’s wrong. I think he was right from the get-go. He’ll never see me as anything more than some girl and it’ll never amount to anything. He told Alex I’m not his type and I’m a waste of his time. The things he says hurt more than you know but still…there’s something about him that makes me come back for more. All I know is, the girl who gets to be with Ryan Duffin is the luckiest girl in the world. And if she doesn’t know that, then she doesn’t deserve him.
If this love letter from Jackie is authentic, she can at least be given credit for some inventive literary talent. But it seems that Jackie not only fabricated the story about her date “Haven”, she also plagiarized most of this email from other sources.
The Daily Caller did some web searching and discovered that much of the email is pure copy and paste with some gender and name changes and very minor stylistic differences.
The email reads:
Ryan is fine. Ryan’s great, actually. I mean he’s smart. He’s attractive. He’s funny. He’s a scaredy cat. If you creep up behind him, he’ll jump right out of his skin. It’s pretty amusing. He’s honest. He always calls them just like he sees them. You can constantly count on getting the truth from Ryan, even if the truth hurts. He has the most incredible taste in music. He’s like this walking, talking music library. And he understands how truly important music is. He’s stubborn. He has this regimented way about him that can be so frustrating sometimes. And sometimes the things he says hurt. But he’s a really, really good friend. And loyal to a fault. He’s realistic about everything. And I’m a dreamer so I mean, it’s good to have somebody like that in my life. He’s one of my best friends here, you know? He’s more than that…he’s everything.
That section is almost identical to the script of a scene from Dawson’s Creek in which Dawson, played by James Van Der Beek, expressed his love for Joey, played by Katie Holmes:
She’s great. I mean, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s funny, she’s a big ol’ scaredy cat. If you creep up from behind her she’ll jump out of her skin. It’s pretty amusing. She’s honest. She always calls them just like she sees them. You can always count on getting the truth from Joey even if the truth hurts. She’s stubborn. We fight a lot. She can be so frustrating sometimes. But she’s a really, really, good friend. I know her to a fault. She believes in me. And I’m a dreamer so it’s so good to have somebody like that in my life. If she goes away, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I mean, she’s my best friend, you know? She’s more than that. She’s everything.
In her email, Jackie wrote of Duffin:
He’s gorgeous, but gorgeous is an understatement. More like you’re startled every time you see him because you notice something new in a Where’s Waldo sort of way. More like you can’t stop writing third grade run on sentences because you can’t even remotely begin to describe something, someone, so inherently amazing. More like you’re afraid that if you stare at him too long, you’ll prove your grandparents right that, yes, your face will get stuck that way…but you don’t mind.
Jackie appears to have taken most of that from a University of Massachusetts student named Matt Brochu who, in an article for the school paper, which was quoted in a 2004 Washington Post article titled “Boyfriend” by Libby Copeland, wrote:
She’s gorgeous, but gorgeous is an understatement. More like you’re startled every time you see her because you notice something new in a “Where’s Waldo” sort of way. More like you can’t stop writing third grade run-on sentences because you can’t remotely begin to describe something . someone . so inherently amazing. But you’re a writer. You can describe anything. That’s what you do: pictures to words, events to words, words to even better words. But nothing seems right. More like you’re afraid that if you stare at her for too long, you’ll prove your parents right: that yes, your face will stick that way. But you wouldn’t mind.
Jackie also wrote:
The problem is I can’t shake these feelings I have for him, I try so damn hard, but they won’t go away.
A website of unattributed “Sad Love Quotes” has a similar line:
I can’t shake these feelings for you, I try so damn hard, but they won’t go away
Another phrase from Jackie’s letter appears to have been lifted from a book written by Jodi Picoult, a popular novelist. Jackie wrote:
When you like someone more than he likes you, you’ll do anything to switch the scales.
Picoult wrote, in 2005′s Vanishing Acts:
When you love someone more than he loves you, you’ll do anything to switch the scales.
Another sappy sentence Jackie’s email appears to have been taken from an episode of the TV show Scrubs. Jackie wrote:
I mean, if I had the chance of hanging out with anyone in the entire world or just sitting in my dorm with him talking about music and watching a crappy TV show…I‘d choose him everytime.
The Scrubs scene was similar. In it, one of the characters said to another:
If I had the choice of hanging out with anyone in the entire world or sitting at home with you eating pizza, watching a crappy TV show, I’d choose you every time.
Ryan has no idea what he does to me…he can make me feel more emotions in one second then I would normally feel in one year.
That line appears to be taken from a blog post written in 2007:
You have no idea what you do to me, you can make me feel more emotions in one second than I would normally feel in one year.
According to the Urban Dictionary, a “Catfish” is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances. Possible motivations: revenge, loneliness, curiosity, boredom. The term “Catfishing” was inspired by the 2010 documentary “Catfish”.
“When you like someone more than he likes you, you’ll do anything to switch the scales.” – from Jackie’s email forwarded by “Haven” to Ryan Duffin
These latest revelations make it appear that the chemistry student named “Drew” in the Rolling Stone article or “Haven” to the friends was a composite invention of Jackie’s, created in order to manipulate “Randall” (aka Ryan) into a relationship. That the fictional “Haven” emailed Ryan after the “incident” in order to continue the attempt at roping him in, suggests that the entire “gang blow job” story may also have been an invention designed to enhance Ryan’s protective feelings for Jackie.
Having failed in that, and once the fiction of serial sexual assault had already become public among her friends, it seems that Jackie may have tried to use it to garner sympathy, support and friendship from the many rape-victim advocates and support groups on campus. With each retelling, the story grew larger, more vicious – and more incredible (in the literal sense of the term).
By the time Rolling Stone came along to make Jackie’s story the core of a national expose, Jackie went along until she realized the consequences of such a large audience for a story without legs, and then tried to pull out of the article – agreeing again as long as she could “fact-check” the parts about her.
Now we see Jackie desperately trying to fill in the holes in her account with names of a real student who fits some of her description of “Drew/Haven”, but that attempt failed at the starting gate.
If Jackie was truly the victim of any kind of sexual assault, I hope the facts emerge to vindicate her. But if she is the perpetrator of an enormous hoax on her friends, on the U-VA community, and now on the whole world, I hope that she suffers the social stigma that she tried to impose on others.
In China, one who falsely accuses another of a crime is given the same sentence that would be imposed on the criminal if guilt were proved. I trust that some form of karma will even the scales, whatever the truth turns out to be.
For the backstory on Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s entire journalism career built on fictions and half-truths, see Journalistic Fabulism and Ideological Agendas
EMILY RENDA’S TESTIMONY TO THE US SENATE
Emily Renda is described in the Rolling Stone article as a “recent grad… who says that weeks into her first year she was raped after a party” and who “channeled her despair into hard partying”. The article also claimed that “in separate incidents, both Emily Renda and Jackie were harassed outside bars on the Corner by men who recognized them from presentations and called them ‘cunt’ and ‘feminazi bitch’.” And, according to Erdely, it was Renda who introduced Jackie to “UVA’s true secret society” – One Less, a support and education group for rape survivors.
What Erdely did not mention in her article was that Renda works in the office of the vice president for student affairs at UVA and is the person who put the Rolling Stone reporter in touch with Jackie.
Renda’s Testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 6/20/2014:
One of the student survivors I worked with, “Jenna” (a pseudonym for Jackie), was gang-raped by five fraternity men early in her freshman year. Despite the severity of the assault and injuries she sustained, Jenna still experienced a feeling of personal responsibility. Looking for affirmation, she sought out peers and told her story. Sadly, each and every one of the friends she reached out to responded with varying denials of her experience; these responses worsened her feelings of self-blame – that she must be confused because that fraternity “is full of great guys”; that she must have made them think she was “down for that”; questioning how no one else at the party could have heard what was going on if she was telling the truth; or discouraging her from seeking help because “you don’t want to be one of those girls who has a reputation” for reporting “that kind of thing”. These statements haunted Jenna. She told me that they made her feel crazy, and made her question whether her own understanding of the rape was legitimate.
Survivors who receive disaffirming responses to initial disclosures are more likely to experience negative mental health consequences as well. These negative and victim-blaming responses from her peers reinforced Jenna’s sense of fault, and prevented her from coming forward to the University’s administration or the police. When she finally sought assistance from the Dean of Students’ office, after struggling and nearly failing out of her classes for two semesters, it was difficult for the university to conduct a meaningful investigation because much of the evidence had been lost, and witnesses were more difficult to locate.
Though assault “severity” (i.e., degree of physical force) is typically correlated with faster self-identification as a victim, powerful cultures of victim-blame and self-blame hinder that self-identification that would encourage help seeking and reporting. In my own case, despite explicit force (e.g. strangulation, loss of consciousness and injuries to my head and torso), I still felt responsible for the assault because I had been drinking and had willfully gone to my assailant’s dorm room. If victimized students are unable to overcome feelings of responsibility reinforced by victim-blaming statements made by peers, we will not see the kinds of reporting behaviors it will take to identify and remove the violent perpetrators on our campuses.
In my own experience, I resisted formally reporting and seeking disciplinary action after the assault because I fixated on the fact that my assailant had parents who cared about him, and that I did not want to ruin his life over what I then viewed as a mistake. Many survivors I have met and worked with echo the same concerns when thinking about bringing a complaint: that he used to be a friend; that he is generally a “good guy”; that it was a one-time mistake. Even though I now disagree with my former self’s evaluation of my assailant, and though I quietly disagree with many of these survivors, I know that fear of expelling him or suspending him was a serious barrier to reporting for me, and continues to be one for other survivors.
What is revealing about Renda’s testimony is that either Jackie (aka “Jenna”) told her the lies about being abandoned and dismissed by her friends, or it was Renda who invented this part of the tale told to Erdely and included with great emphasis in her article.
What is even more revealing is that Renda, like so many “survivors” of date or acquaintance “rape”, appropriately internalized some of the responsibility for the consensual acts and the personal decisions that led to them – but that she had that legitimate understanding exorcised by the drumbeat of the “rape culture” advocates whose mantra is “it’s never her fault”.
THE ONE IN FIVE MYTH
“It is estimated that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there – 1 in 5.” – President Obama, remarks at White House, Jan. 22, 2014
The January 2014 White House report, Rape And Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call To Action, began “nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetimes”. Even if this were true, it makes a lie of the assertion that all those rapes occurred on campus.
This claim, first published in Ms. Magazine in 1987, took the universities by storm because it seemed to expose a problem that nobody knew existed in such dimensions. But the study by Mary Koss of Kent State University, in collaboration with the Ms. Foundation, had serious methodological flaws, which have been repeated in a number of subsequent studies. Chief among them is asking questions about sexual experiences which the researchers would classify as rape, even if the women respondents did not consider it anything more than a minor relationship mistake or an ambiguous alcohol-fueled hookup. (see Addendum #5 for more).
According to Christina Hoff Sommers, philosophy professor and self-described “equity feminist”, the Koss study and the oft-quoted “one in four” statistic is based upon flawed data. One of the three questions used by Koss to calculate rape prevalence was, “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” According to Sommers and professor Neil Gilbert, this left the door open for anyone who regretted a sexual liaison to be counted as a rape victim, even if neither partner thought of the situation as abusive.
Other studies of the time, such as those by scholars Margaret Gordon and Linda George, found much lower measured rape prevalence, with their research simply asking women if they had been raped rather than asking behaviorally specific questions.
The 1 in 5 on-campus statistic is also extrapolated from a 2007 survey, the Campus Sexual Assault Study, which asked nearly 5,500 women at two large public universities about unwanted sexual contact of any form, from touching or kissing to forcible or drugged penetrative rape. The study’s title sounds sweeping, but Christopher Krebs, the lead researcher on the study, said in an interview that the results were never meant to apply nationwide – or even to other large public universities similar to the ones he studied.
“I think sexual assault is a phenomenon that is potentially unique at each university,” he said.
The survey’s origins were personal. Krebs, a researcher with the Research Triangle Institute, was teaching at a North Carolina university in the early 2000s when he heard disturbing stories from two students. Both said they had been given drugs without their knowledge and ended up in the emergency room, although neither was sexually assaulted. Krebs applied for a grant from the National Institute of Justice to study sexual assault on college campuses, hoping in part to find out how common drug-assisted sexual assault actually was.
While his study was funded by a division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the report began with this disclaimer: “This report has not been published by the U.S. Department of Justice. To provide better customer service, NCJRS has made this Federally-funded grant final report available electronically in addition to traditional paper copies. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.”
Krebs and his colleagues picked the two universities they studied – one in the South and one in the Midwest, but which aren’t named in the study – because administrators at those colleges were interested in participating. “It wasn’t a statistical sample or a random sample or anything else,” Krebs said. They reached almost 5,500 women, with response rates of 42.2% and 42.8%. Of those who responded (and received the payment of a $10 Amazon.com gift card), 19% said they had experienced either an attempted or completed sexual assault since starting college.
That figure includes all “unwanted sexual contact” – a broad category that includes not just rape and oral sex but also “forced touching” or sexual battery. That means being kissed, touched sexually, or groped against your will, even over clothing, while under the threat of force or because you are too drunk to consent.
The researchers broke down the results: since the beginning of college, 13.7% of women were the victim of a completed sexual assault. In all, 3.4% of women had been raped under the threat of force, and 8.5% had been raped when they were too incapacitated from drinking or drugs to consent. Of those who reported incapacitated sexual assault, 49.8% thought they were partially or fully responsible for the outcome, 31% said they did not remember or know what really happened, and 66% said they didn’t think it was serious enough to report (these categories can overlap).
“Forced touching” was, somewhat surprisingly, much less common than rape: 1.6% of women said they were sexually touched, but not raped, under the threat of force, and 2.6% said they were sexually touched but not raped when they were too incapacitated to consent.
They also found freshman were more likely to be sexually assaulted than older students, and that students in Greek organizations were more likely to be assaulted than those who weren’t. They found that sexual assault assisted by date rape drugs was relatively rare (only 0.6%, with another 1.7% believing they might have been drugged).
The Krebs report noted a 2000 study, also funded by the National Institute of Justice (but headed with the disclaimer that the results represent the points of view of the authors and not the DOJ), based on telephone interviews with 4,446 college women at both 2- and 4-year schools, that found that 2.8% of women reported an attempted (1.1%) or completed (1.7%) rape since the start of the 1996 school year. Though acknowledging the inherent dangers of doing so, the authors then extrapolated that composite 2.8% datum to a full 12-month year and multiplied it by the 5 years that the average student attends college. By engaging in such mathematical acrobatics, the authors were able to state that “the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter”.
In spite of the obvious problems with such data, the 1 in 5 figure has really stuck – even though it didn’t appear in Kreb’s original report. For a later article in the Journal of American College Health, published in 2009, Kreb’s researchers used the same data to estimate the likelihood that women would experience sexual assault by graduation, which they put at about 19%, or nearly one in five.
At the same time Krebs and his colleagues were surveying students at two public universities, the Medical University of South Carolina was taking on a bigger project, also funded by the National Institute of Justice: a national survey of how common rape is during a woman’s lifetime. As in Krebs’ study, researchers were particularly interested in the role of date rape drugs.
Researchers surveyed a sample of 2,000 women from more than 200 colleges. Unlike Krebs’ study, they only asked about experiences that could be legally classified as rape – in other words, involving vaginal, anal or oral penetration. They found 13% of college women had been raped either before they entered college or while they were enrolled. They estimated nearly 5% of college women were raped annually. If it is assumed that a different 5% are raped each year, then 20% (or 1 in 5) would be raped in a four-year college tenure.
One key finding was that college women who were raped while they were too drunk or drugged to consent were less likely to describe what happened to them as rape. More than two-thirds described it either as “unpleasant but not a crime” or as “a crime, but not rape”.
The 2007 survey also found that rates of campus rape (6.1%) were lower than rates of other violent crimes, such as aggravated assault (8.3%) and simple assault (28.5%), with non-sexual violent crimes comprising 87% of those reported by college women – and that college women were significantly safer on campus than non-student women were off-campus.
In 2010, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) partnered with National Public Radio (NPR) to publish “Sexual Assault on Campus”, a report which showcases the failures of colleges and government agencies to prevent sexual assaults and resolve sexual assault cases.
While correctly noting that “research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1 out of 5 college women will be sexually assaulted, NPR writes in a sidebar that “One of out 5 women will be sexually assaulted during her college years.” And refers to an “epidemic of sexual assault”.
Though CPI did research the number of incidents reported by Universities under the Clery Act, they compared it to the results of a survey of 152 crisis-services programs and clinics on or near college campuses. While CPI’s report acknowledged that the far higher numbers of incidents reported by the crisis centers (which are typically rape victim advocates as well) were explained by the fact that they serve a broader clientele than the schools’ student populations, some of the incidents occurred off campus, they routinely document reports from students who were sexually assaulted on spring break, raped in high school, or molested as children – none of which fall under Clery reporting requirements – the report nevertheless claimed that the discrepancy suggests “a systematic problem with Clery data collection”.
The CPI report was not a research study document, but a series of journalistic articles attempting to describe a problem they believed existed, and did not employ the usual standards for objective academic research.
NPR followed this report with a series on the campus rape issue, which employed the same kind of uncritical acceptance of the “epidemic” nature of both campus rape and university administrative failure to appropriately or adequately respond.
Unfortunately, researchers have been unable to determine the precise incidence of sexual assault on American campuses because the incidence found depends on how the questions are worded and the context of the survey. For example, researchers did two parallel surveys of American college women during the same time and came up with very different results. The surveys, conducted between February and May 1997, asked only about sexual assaults that had taken place “since school began in fall 1996.”
One survey found a completed rape rate of 1.7%, while the other study found a 0.16% rate. Similarly, one study found an attempted rape rate of 1.1%, while the other study found a rate of 0.18%. Thus, the%age of the sample that reported experiencing a completed rape in one study was 11 times the%age in the other study. Researchers believe the disparity arises from the way the survey questions are worded.
Some researchers count as rape a wide range of actions, some of which may not be criminal. Responses to survey questions will depend on how a term is defined, and how a woman interprets the definition.
Regardless of which studies are most accurate, the often-quoted statistic that one in four American college women will be raped during her college years is not supported by the scientific evidence [emphasis added].
Surveys of college students confirm that many sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Researchers asked students why they did not report the incidents to law enforcement officers. The most commonly reported response – offered by more than half the students – was that they did not think the incident was serious enough to report. More than 35% said they did not report the incident because they were unclear as to whether a crime was committed or that harm was intended.
New Study Debunks 1-in-5
A study produced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Rape and Sexual Assault among College-age Females, 1995-2013, by Lynn Langton, PhD BJS statistician, and published on December 11, 2014 provides more credible statistics.
The BJS conducted its survey in a similar way to previous studies like the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study. But unlike those surveys, BJS had a high response rate (88% for eligible persons). The NISVS and CSA studies had a response rate of 33%-42%.
The BJS survey also approached the subject from a criminal behavior perspective, while the other two were presented as public health surveys. But in all three, questions were asked of respondents and their answers were gauged to determine whether incidents of sexual assault had occurred – meaning that even if a respondent didn’t explicitly say she was raped or assaulted, the survey might still consider her a rape victim.
While the two older studies asked questions about whether the victim had been assaulted while under the influence, the BJS did not. The survey found that the rate of rape or sexual assault for women has been declining sharply since 1997.
- The rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for non-students (7.6 per 1,000) than for students (6.1 per 1,000).
- For both college students and non-students, the offender was known to the victim in about 80% of rape and sexual assault victimizations.
- Most (51%) student rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred while the victim was pursuing leisure activities away from home, compared to non-students who were engaged in other activities at home (50%) when the victimization occurred.
- The offender had a weapon in about 1 in 10 rape and sexual assault victimizations against both students and non-students.
- Rape and sexual assault victimizations of students (80%) were more likely than non-student victimizations (67%) to go unreported to police.
- About a quarter of student (26% and non-student (23%) victims who did not report to police believed the incident was a “personal matter”, and 1 in 5 (20% each) stated a fear of reprisal.
- Student victims (12%) were more likely than non-student victims (5%) to state that the incident was not important enough to report.
- Fewer than 1 in 5 female student (16%) and non-student (18%) victims of rape and sexual assault received assistance from a victim services agency.
Reported crimes are much lower. Bureau of Justice Statistics data indicate that in 2012 the rate of rapes and sexual assaults was 1.3 per 1,000 Americans ages 12 and up.
The Campus Rape Myth
“The Campus Rape Myth – bogus statistics, feminist victimology, and university-approved sex toys”, written in 2008 by Heather Mac Donald, contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is perhaps the best overview of the origin, history and repercussions of what she calls the “campus rape industry”.
Following is a summary version of the article:
The campus rape industry’s central tenet is that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years. This claim, first published in Ms. Magazine in 1987, took the universities by storm. By the early 1990s, campus rape centers and 24-hour hotlines were opening across the country. Victimhood rituals sprang up: first the Take Back the Night rallies, then the Clothesline Project.
During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory had discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results – very few women said that they had been. So Ms. commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way of measuring the prevalence of rape. Rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had experienced actions that she then classified as rape. Koss’s method produced the 25% rate, which Ms. then published in an article titled “Date Rape: The Story of an Epidemic and Those Who Deny It”.
Koss’s study had serious flaws. But the most powerful refutation of Koss’s research came from her own subjects: 73% of the women whom she characterized as rape victims said that they hadn’t been raped. Further – though it is inconceivable that a raped woman would voluntarily have sex again with the fiend who attacked her – 42% of Koss’s supposed victims had intercourse again with their alleged assailants.
Equally damning was a 2000 campus rape study conducted under the aegis of the Department of Justice. 65% of what the feminist researchers called “completed rape” victims and 75% of “attempted rape” victims said that they did not think that their experiences were “serious enough to report”. The “victims” in the study, moreover, “generally did not state that their victimization resulted in physical or emotional injuries,” report the researchers.
Federal law requires colleges to publish reported crimes affecting their students. The numbers of reported sexual assaults – the law does not require their confirmation – usually run under half a dozen a year on private campuses and maybe two to three times that at large public universities. The University of Virginia does not publish the number of its sexual-assault hearings because it is so low. “We’re reticent to publicize it when we have such a small ‘n’ number,” says Nicole Eramu, Virginia’s associate dean of students.
Campuses do everything they can to get their numbers of reported and adjudicated sexual assaults up – adding new categories of lesser offenses, lowering the burden of proof, and devising hearing procedures that will elicit more assault charges.
The scarcity of reported sexual assaults means that the women who do report them must be treated like rare treasures. New York University’s Wellness Exchange counsels people to “believe unconditionally” in sexual-assault charges because “only 2% of reported rapes are false reports” (a ubiquitous claim that dates from radical feminist Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 tract Against Our Will). As Stuart Taylor and K. C. Johnson point out in their book Until Proven Innocent, however, the rate of false reports is at least 9% and probably closer to 50%.
So what reality does lie behind the campus rape industry? A booze-fueled hookup culture of one-night, or sometimes just partial-night, stands. College girls drink themselves into near or actual oblivion before and during parties. That drinking is often goal-oriented, suggests University of Virginia graduate Karin Agness: it frees the drinker from responsibility and “provides an excuse for engaging in behavior that she ordinarily wouldn’t”.
As anticipated, the night can include a meaningless sexual encounter with a guy whom the girl may not even know. This less-than-romantic denouement produces the “roll and scream: you roll over the next morning so horrified at what you find next to you that you scream,” a Duke coed reports in Laura Sessions Stepp’s recent book Unhooked. To the extent that they’re remembered at all, these are the couplings that are occasionally transformed into “rape” – though far less often than the campus rape industry wishes.
Now perhaps the male willfully exploited the woman’s self-inflicted incapacitation; if so, he deserves censure for taking advantage of a female in distress. But to hold the woman completely without responsibility requires stripping women of volition and moral agency. Campus rape ideology holds that inebriation strips women of responsibility for their actions but preserves male responsibility not only for their own actions but for their partners’ as well. Thus do men again become the guardians of female well-being.
But suggest to a rape bureaucrat that female students should behave with greater sexual restraint as a preventive measure, and you might as well be saying that the girls should enter a convent or don the burka. Putting on a tight tank top doesn’t, of course, lead to what the bureaucrats call “rape”. But taking off that tank top does increase the risk of sexual intercourse that will be later regretted, especially when the tank-topper has been intently mainlining rum and Cokes all evening.
The baby boomers who demanded the dismantling of all campus rules governing the relations between the sexes now sit in dean’s offices and student-counseling services. They cannot turn around and argue for reregulating sex, even on pragmatic grounds. Instead, they have responded to the fallout of the college sexual revolution with bizarre and anachronistic legalism. Campuses have created a judicial infrastructure for responding to postcoital second thoughts more complex than that required to adjudicate maritime commerce claims in Renaissance Venice.
University of Virginia students, for example, have at least three different procedural channels open to them following carnal knowledge: they may demand a formal adjudication before the Sexual Assault Board; they can request a “Structured Meeting” with their assailants at the Office of the Dean of Students by filing a formal complaint; or they can seek voluntary mediation with the accused.
Rarely have primal lust and carousing been more weirdly paired with their opposites. Out in the real world, people who regret a sexual coupling must work it out on their own; no counterpart exists outside academia for this superstructure of hearings, mediations, and negotiated settlements. If you’ve actually been raped, you go to criminal court – but the overwhelming majority of campus “rape” cases that take up administration time and resources would get thrown out of court in a twinkling, which is why they’re almost never prosecuted. Indeed, if the campus rape industry really believes that these hookup encounters are rape, it is unconscionable to leave them to flimsy academic procedures.
The campus rape industry may decry ubiquitous male predation, but a campus sex industry puts bureaucratic clout behind the message that students should have recreational sex at every opportunity.
Modern feminists defined the right to be promiscuous as a cornerstone of female equality. Understandably, they now hesitate to acknowledge that sex is a more complicated force than was foreseen. Rather than recognizing that no-consequences sex may be a contradiction in terms, however, the campus rape industry claims that what it calls campus rape is about not sex but rather politics – the male desire to subordinate women. The University of Virginia Women’s Center intones that “rape or sexual assault is not an act of sex or lust – it’s about aggression, power, and humiliation, using sex as the weapon. The rapist’s goal is domination.”
This characterization may or may not describe the psychopathic violence of stranger rape. But it is an absurd description of the barnyard rutting that undergraduate men, happily released from older constraints, seek. The guys who push themselves on women at keggers are after one thing only, and it’s not a reinstatement of the patriarchy. Each would be perfectly content if his partner for the evening becomes president of the United States one day, so long as she lets him take off her panties tonight.
One group on campus isn’t buying the politics of the campus “rape” movement, however: students. To the despair of rape industrialists everywhere, students have held on to the view that women usually have considerable power to determine whether a campus social event ends with intercourse. Maybe these young iconoclasts can take up another discredited idea: college is for learning. The campus rape and sex industries are signs of how hollow the university has become.
By now, universities have traveled so far from their original task of immersing students in the greatest intellectual and artistic creations of humanity that criticizing any particular detour seems arbitrary. Still, the question presents itself: Why, exactly, are the schools offering workshops on orgasms and sex toys? Are students already so saturated with knowledge of Renaissance humanism or the evolution of constitutional democracy, say, that colleges can happily reroute resources to matters readily available on porn websites?
Members of the multifaceted campus sex bureaucracy never seem to consider the possibility that the libertinism that one administrative branch champions, and the sex that another branch portrays as rape, may be inextricably linked.
DOE Dear Colleague Letter, Campus SaVE Act, & Harvard Law Professors’ Letter
On April 4, 2011, the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to every US educational institution which receives any federal education funding. It began:
Education has long been recognized as the great equalizer in America. The U.S. Department of Education and its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) believe that providing all students with an educational environment free from discrimination is extremely important. The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 … prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance. Sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.
Sexual violence, as that term is used in this letter, refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability. A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. All such acts of sexual violence are forms of sexual harassment covered under Title IX.
(19 pages with 46 footnotes)
The most significant element of what amounted to a federal blackmail note was that, to prevent risking loss of federal funding, all educational institutions must establish a sexual harassment adjudication policy based on a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, and apply clear and explicit penalties for a “guilty” finding – up to and including expulsion from school.
This standard merely requires that it is “more likely than not” that someone is responsible for what they are accused of, and is the lowest standard of proof.
Given the seriousness of allegations of sexual misconduct – which range from sexual harassment to rape – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) believes that this standard does not sufficiently protect the accused person’s right to due process.
Following the issuance of this letter, a flurry of criticism was published in media sources across the political spectrum:
Hans Bader, “Education Department shreds presumption of innocence in April 4 letter,” The Washington Examiner, April 8, 2011
Wendy Kaminer, “The SaVE Act: Trading Liberty for Security on Campus,” The Atlantic, April 25, 2011
Christina Hoff Sommers, “In Making Campuses Safe for Women, a Travesty of Justice for Men,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 5, 2011
Harvey Silverglate, “Yes Means Yes–Except on Campus,” The Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2011
Samantha Harris, “The feds’ mad assault on campus sex,” New York Post, July 20, 2011
Cynthia Bell, “Rape should be tough to prove,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 14, 2011
Caroline May, “American Association of University Professors expresses concern over Dept. of Education’s new mandates,” The Daily Caller, August 18, 2011
Peter Berkowitz, “College Rape Accusations and the Presumption of Male Guilt,” The Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2011
Cathy Young, “The Politics of Campus Sexual Assault,” Real Clear Politics, November 6, 2011
Campus SaVE Act
In spite of the broad concern over the erosion of due process rights, on March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (Campus SaVE) Act into law as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization.
The Campus SaVE Act is intended to increase transparency on campus about incidents of sexual violence, guarantee victims (but not accused) enhanced rights, set standards for disciplinary proceedings, and require campus-wide prevention education programs. The Campus SaVE Act amends the Clery Act, which addresses campus sexual assault policies within the Higher Education Act of 1965.
The Campus SaVE Act incorporated the “preponderance of evidence” standard articulated in the Dear Colleague Letter of 2011.
Harvard Under Fire
Harvard University is one of the 90 colleges and universities under Title IX investigations, and one of many which instituted new sexual assault policies in an attempt to comply with the new standards.
On October 15, 2014, an open letter was published in the Boston Globe, signed by 28 Harvard law professors voicing strong objections to the school’s one-sided sexual misconduct policies. Among other things the professors said this:
“Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.”
Among the signers of the letter are esteemed criminal law expert Alan Dershowitz, Obama mentor Charles Ogletree, and Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet, who directs Harvard’s Child Advocacy Program.
A week earlier, Dershowitz told Time magazine “Harvard’s policy was written by people who think sexual assault is so heinous a crime that even innocence is not a defense.”
Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet said that Harvard’s new policy comes “very very close” to California’s new “Yes means Yes” law, requiring affirmative consent for sex on campus, and that the new policy is unfair to the accused and “degrading and demeaning for women” because it assumes women need special protection.
Prof. Janet Halley said “When you drop the reasonable person requirement, then you’re saying, ‘No, it’s just if the person wakes up the next morning and says [the contact] was unwelcome, we’ll entertain a complaint about that.’ And that squanders the moral authority of sexual harassment law.”
Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said: “I think we owe these professors a sincere thanks for finally drawing a line in the sand. [The SaVE Act] has effectively put a gun to the heads of our colleges and universities to disregard constitutional rights. I think these professors are properly saying that we cannot allow our institutions to be taken down an Orwellian path where the Constitution takes a back seat to other considerations.”
What’s To Be Done?
Emily Yoffe published an 11,500 word article in Slate on December 7, 2014 titled “The College Rape Overcorrection: Sexual assault on campus is a serious problem. But efforts to protect women from a putative epidemic of violence have led to misguided policies that infringe on the civil rights of men.”
It is perhaps the most thorough overview of the problem, the faulty but widely-quoted data, the governmental and college response, and the serious failures of fairness that have been the outcome. It was also a finalist in the 2015 National Magazine Awards, sponsored by the American Society of Magazine Editors in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Yoffe notes that not only are college men fighting back against this tide of misandrist collegiate policy, but are winning and inflicting a financial penalty on the schools that deprive them of constitutional rights.
In the past three years, men found responsible for sexual assault on campus have filed more than three dozen legal cases against schools. They argue that their due process rights have been violated and say they have been victims of gender discrimination under Title IX. Their complaints are starting to cost universities. The higher education insurance group United Educators did a study of the 262 insurance claims it paid to students between 2006 and 2010 because of campus sexual assault, at a cost to the group of $36 million. The vast majority of the payouts, 72%, went to the accused – young men who protested their treatment by universities.
The article concludes with a process for reform with which I wholeheartedly agree:
What is to be done? How can the government and institutions of higher education address sexual assault, support victims, identify predators, and not unfairly punish innocent students?
A good place to start would be scaling back the powers of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which has overstepped its bounds in micromanaging university policies and enforcing draconian rules that infringe on the rights of the accused. And before making policy based on alarming statistics, officials should ponder a study’s limitations and read all the footnotes.
Rather than creating a separate (and unfair) system of justice, we should ensure the safety of college students the same way we ensure the safety of those who aren’t in college. Instead of universities writing expansive and elaborate sexual conduct rules, they should rely on the narrower statutes that govern criminal sexual assault and civil sexual harassment. “Affirmative consent” regulations should be struck. When universities do take action against a student for sexual misconduct, if the definition of misconduct is narrower, and if there is a return to a standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” as there should be, there will be fewer miscarriages of justice.
Any student who feels she has been sexually victimized should be able to turn to campus counselors who are sensitive listeners and not crusaders.
The prohibition about discussing the connection between alcohol and sexual assault should be lifted. Administrators ignore the role of alcohol in sexual assault at their peril, and at the peril of their students, men and women.
We also need to change the culture of discourse around sexual assault on campuses. To stand up for the rights of the accused is not to attack victims or women. Our colleges, like the rest of our society, must be places where you are innocent until proven guilty. The day after graduation, young men and women will be thrown into a world where there is no Gender-Based Misconduct Office. They will have to live by the rules of society at large. Higher education should ready our students for this reality, not shield them from it.
The 600 Pound Gorilla Nobody Wants to Face
Both Heather McDonald and Emily Yoffe named the beast that nobody wants to confront: an alcohol-lubricated hookup culture that begins in high school (if not earlier) and turns colleges and universities into rape traps for both women and men.
U-VA President Teresa Sullivan didn’t mention alcohol – not even once – in her November 22 statement about the Rolling Stone report of a gang rape at a fraternity house and her intention to quell sexual abuse on campus.
Yet a 2004 study by the Harvard School of Public Health (Correlates of Rape while Intoxicated in a National Sample of College Women) of almost 24,000 women at 119 colleges found that 72% of campus rapes happened when the victims were so intoxicated they were unable to consent or refuse.
The study also found that those particularly at risk were under 21, white, residing in sorority houses, using illicit drugs, drank heavily in high school, and attended colleges with high rates of heavy episodic drinking.
High binge-drinking schools had rates of more than 50% of students reporting to be heavy episodic drinkers, and colleges with medium binge-drinking rates had between a 36% and 50% of students reporting the same.
College student binge drinking, as defined by College Alcohol Study researchers, is the consumption of five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women.
The study found that binge drinking is the number one public health problem among college students, and is associated with a range of consequences that include lower grades, vandalism and physical violence.
Henry Wechsler PhD, a co-author of the study and director of the College Alcohol Studies at Harvard School of Public Health, said “The findings that some campus environments are associated with higher levels of both drinking and rape can help encourage and better target alcohol and rape prevention programs at colleges.”
“Binge drinking isn’t a harmless rite of passage,” said George W. Dowdall PhD, a co-author of the study and professor of sociology at Saint Joseph’s University. “Institutions of higher education need to change the culture of college drinking in order to make colleges safer and healthier environments.”
A 2013 University of Michigan study (Extreme Binge Drinking among 12th-Grade Students in the US: Prevalence and Predictors, JAMA Pediatrics, November 2013) found that 20.2% of a national sample of 16,000 high school seniors were binge drinkers.
Yet educators and parents don’t do much more than roll their eyes and wring their hands. Drinking is a social norm, so we write it off as insoluble. Public service announcements focus on drugs, not booze, even though the Betty Ford Center says alcohol abuse and dependence is the most common chronic illness among those between the ages of 18 and 44.
U-VA Student Council President Jalen Ross recently called for more study of the effect of alcohol on sexual crimes. He means well, but studies can be a way to avoid difficult decisions. So far the official approach has been: We can’t keep you from getting blind drunk, but we’ll try to make sure you behave yourself while you are in that condition.
Case Effectively Closed : Police Find No Evidence to Support Rape Story
In a March 23, 2015 press conference, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo put his five-month investigation into suspension, finding no evidence or testimony of any kind to support the gang rape story reported in the November 2014 Rolling Stone.
“We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter,” Longo said. “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie … we’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”
Later, in response to a question, Longo said “We cannot say that something didn’t happen, but there is no evidence to support that it did.”
When a detective was asked point blank whether he believed that the story in Rolling Stone was true, he said just as plainly that he did not.
The police interviewed approximately 70 people and spent hundreds of hours pursuing this case and came up empty handed. After being contacted by phone and email, Jackie agreed to show up at the police station, but when she appeared with her lawyer on December 10, she said she would not give a statement and did not want to be contacted again. Jackie also refused a police request to allow U-VA to release to them confidential records pertaining to her rape allegation.
Chief Longo also responded that he found no evidence of any kind to support the allegation of a “rape culture” at the University of Virginia.
In fact, Longo said that he could find no evidence or testimony of any kind that would support Jackie’s allegation to Dean Eramo, head of U-VA’s Sexual Misconduct Board, of other rapes at Phi Psi in 2010 and 2014.
When asked why Jackie was refusing to cooperate, Detective D. J. Harris responded: “The last contact we had with [Jackie] was on December 10  and we were very distinctly told that she would not talk to us, that she would not file a report, and that we were not to talk to her again.”
Perhaps most significant was Chief Longo’s response to a question about why an investigation wasn’t started earlier, after the police first heard about the alleged rape. He answered that it was Jackie’s decision at the time not to pursue it, that it was perfectly within her right to do that and…
“I learned a lot about federal law that I didn’t know much about prior to this, that really is somewhat restrictive in how universities share certain types of information. So hopefully, as we move forward, we’ll get to work through some of those laws as well so they don’t create the unforeseen consequence of being an obstruction to a criminal investigation.”
Here’s the full Charlottesville Police Report to the Media:
On November 19, 2014 an article appeared in Rolling Stone magazine depicting a violent sexual assault of a University of Virginia student identified as “Jackie”. That same day, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan requested that the Charlottesville Police Department initiate an investigation in an effort to confirm or dispel the incident as graphically described in the article.
Having exhausted all investigative leads, our investigation concludes that there is no substantive basis to support the account alleged in the Rolling Stone article. Therefore, our investigation will remain suspended until such time as “Jackie” wishes to cooperate with investigators or other evidence comes to our attention to warrant further investigation.
Although “Jackie’s” story was told by Ms. Erdely in the Rolling Stone article, investigators were never afforded the opportunity to interview “Jackie”.
In addition, federal laws governing privacy and protection of certain records in the possession of academic institutions obstructed our ability to access records that may have been relevant to our investigation.
Nonetheless, our investigation revealed that Dean Nicole Eramo first learned from “Jackie” of an allegation of sexual assault on May 20, 2013. This disclosure came after “Jackie” was referred to the Dean because of poor grades. The disclosure was specifically that she went to a party at an unknown fraternity on Madison Lane and was sexually assaulted.
“Jackie’s” disclosure to Dean Eramo did provide some information that depicted a sexual act, but that information is inconsistent with the details that are reported in the Rolling Stone Magazine article of November 19, 2014.
Dean Eramo provided “Jackie” with the options available per UVA protocol in place at that time.
On April 21, 2014, “Jackie” again met with Dean Eramo and reported a physical assault that was alleged to have occurred on April 6, 2014 on the University Corner in the vicinity of Elliewood Avenue.
According to “Jackie” she was struck in the face by a glass bottle. She further advised that her roommate at the time, a nursing student, assisted her in removing glass from her (“Jackie’s”) face.
In a subsequent interview by investigators, “Jackie’s” roommate denied ever removing glass from “Jackie’s” face. Further, she described “Jackie’s” injury as an abrasion consistent with having fallen.
According to “Jackie” she stood in the parking garage on Elliewood Avenue and called her mother. Yet, a subsequent search of phone records which we believe to be “Jackie’s” failed to yield any evidence that such a call was made. In fact, no calls were made from April 5, 2014 from 8 PM to April 6, 2014 at 4 AM.
Further, a search of the police department’s Computer Aided Dispatch records revealed that an officer responded to an unrelated call for service at 9 Elliewood Avenue, adjacent to the garage where “Jackie” was alleged to have made the phone call. The officer was on location for several minutes and would have likely been visible to “Jackie” had she been at that location during that same time frame
During the course of her April 21, 2014 meeting with Dean Eramo, “Jackie” disclosed for the first time that she had been sexually assaulted at the Phi Psi fraternity house. “Jackie” advised Dean Eramo that she wanted her report to remain anonymous.
The Charlottesville Police Department first became aware of “Jackie’s” allegations on April 22, 2014, when an officer met with “Jackie” in the company of Dean Eramo and a University of Virginia police officer.
During the course of that meeting, “Jackie” reported being verbally abused by four males on the University Corner earlier in the month. She further reported being followed by these subjects as one called out her name.
According to “Jackie”, when she turned in the direction of the person who had called out to her, she was struck by an unknown object. She did not provide a detailed description of the subject to the officer, nor did she think she would recognize him if she were to see him again.
“Jackie” further told the officer that she had photographs of the injury that she could provide if needed. The officer does not recall observing any injuries on “Jackie’s” face at the time of the interview. Investigators reviewed a photograph of “Jackie” believed to have been taken during the week of April 11, 2014. The injury depicted in the photograph has the appearance of swelling above the right eye and an apparent abrasion on the upper cheek. In the opinion of the investigator, it did not appear consistent with being struck by a blunt object.
In her meeting with the officers and Dean Eramo, “Jackie” further disclosed that she had been sexually assaulted at the Phi Kappa Psi house in 2012. She stated that she reported it to the Dean’s office, but not the police. She feared retaliation from the fraternity if she followed through with a criminal investigation.
At the time of this disclosure, “Jackie” refused to provide any specific details regarding the alleged sexual assault.
On May 1, 2014, Detective Jake Via met with “Jackie” in the presence of Dean Eramo regarding both the alleged physical assault on the Corner and the allegation of sexual assault in 2012. “Jackie” maintained that she did not want to proceed with any investigation of the physical assault, nor did she provide any disclosure as to the facts of the alleged sexual assault.
Detective Via advised “Jackie” that her allegations would be fully investigated if she changed her mind and wished to pursue an investigation. Detective Via had no further contact with “Jackie” until early December 2014.
As previously stated, on November 19, 2014, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan requested that the Charlottesville Police Department launch a criminal investigation into the details of the Rolling Stone article.
Believing “Jackie” to be the person that he had spoken to in April of 2014, Detective Via called her and left a message offering both police and victim/witness support and assistance.
On November 20, 2014, Detective Via again attempted contact with “Jackie”. This time “Jackie” responded and agreed to meet after the Thanksgiving break.
On December 2, 2014, “Jackie” came to the Charlottesville Police Department headquarters accompanied by University Dean Laurie Casteen and legal counsel from the Legal Aid and Justice Center. While there “Jackie” declined, through legal counsel, to provide a statement or answer any questions.
Since that time, despite numerous attempts to gain her cooperation, “Jackie” has provided no information whatsoever to investigators.
In an effort to access certain records pertaining to “Jackie” that would aid in our investigation, efforts were made through her legal counsel to obtain her written consent. Those efforts, too, were met with negative results.
The University of Virginia provided investigators access to relevant members of the Office of the Dean of Students who had knowledge of “Jackie’s” previous contacts with their office, along with redacted copies of documents that reflect Dean Eramo’s previous meetings with “Jackie”; specifically those documents referencing the sexual assault, physical assault, and an anonymous sexual assault report.
None of the documents we were given or had access to revealed any facts similar to what was disclosed in the Rolling Stone article.
In order that investigators have the ability to identify members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity that may have information regarding this matter, an attorney on behalf of the fraternity provided investigators with a membership roster. Investigators were also provided with lease agreements and bank records dating back to 2012.
During the course of the investigation, Investigators interviewed nine (9) of the fourteen (14) brothers who were living at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September of 2012 when the sexual assault is alleged to have occurred.
None of those persons interviewed admitted to knowing “Jackie”, or being involved in a sexual assault on September 28, 2012.
Furthermore, none of them admitted to having any knowledge of a sexual assault occurring in the fraternity house at any time when they were present.
In addition, a questionnaire was created and sent to fraternity members. Nineteen (19) responses were returned. None of the respondents admitted to knowing “Jackie”, nor did they reveal any knowledge of a sexual assault having occurred at the fraternity house on September 28, 2012.
The investigation further revealed no evidence of a party having taken place at the fraternity house on September 28, 2012. However, investigators did learn that there had been a “formal” at Phi Kappa Psi’s sister sorority, Delta Gamma that evening. Several of the fraternity members attended the event.
During the course of our investigation, investigators came into possession of a photograph that was time stamped September 28, 2012, 11:33 PM. The photograph depicts the interior of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. Present in the photograph is a male holding two chairs while standing in the main room. He is oriented to the side of the room closest to the stairs and side door. The photograph does not reveal any indication of a large party or gathering of people.
A review of the bank records for the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity did not reveal any expenditures on or around September 28, 2012 that would reflect purchases for a party or large gathering.
While, the Inter-Fraternity Council does not maintain records of scheduled events at fraternities from 2012, a review of “What’s Greek This Week” from September 24-30, 2012 did not reveal any publicized event for the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on September 28, 2012.
The police department’s Computer Aided Dispatch records also fail to indicate any calls for service to 159 Madison Lane on September 28, 2012 from 7 PM to September 29, 2012 at 5 AM.
In short, we cannot find any basis of fact to conclude that there was any event at the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity house on the evening of September 28, 2012.
Investigators also had occasion to interview two of “Jackie’s” friends, both of whom gave interviews to national media correspondents.
Both males report being told by Jackie that she was going out on the evening of September 28, 2012 with a person known as Haven Monahan. Neither had ever met Haven Monahan, but report previously text messaging with a person whom they believed to be him.
In their interview with investigators, they both contradict “Jackie’s” version of events in reference to where they met subsequent to the alleged sexual assault, her physical condition at the time they met, the time of day during which the meeting took place, the description of the assault, and their reactions to what they were allegedly told by “Jackie”. It should be noted that what “Jackie” is alleged to have described to these two witnesses is consistent with what was previously told to Dean Eramo and is inconsistent with the facts included in the Rolling Stone Magazine article.
In an effort to further track down Haven Monahan, investigators reviewed the student listing for 2012, and found no one by that name.
In addition, investigators conducted multiple internet searches using LINX, TLO, Pinger, Twitter, Facebook, and Google. No one having the name Haven Monahan was discovered.
Several attempts were made to identify Monahan through a phone number that surfaced during the investigation. The number was listed with Bandwith.com. The carrier was Google voice. A court order was sent to Google with negative results.
During the course of our investigation, a photograph was discovered that was believed to depict the person of Haven Monahan.
Investigators were able to locate this subject who declined interview. His name was not Haven Monahan, nor was it “Drew”.
Through legal counsel, the subject did proffer that he does not know “Jackie”, nor was he in the City of Charlottesville on September 28, 2012.
The membership roster for the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was reviewed for the name of Haven Monahan, and was also met with negative results.
Supervisors employed at the University Aquatic and Fitness center were also interviewed by investigators regarding whether anyone by the name of Haven Monahan or “Drew” were ever employed as a lifeguard at the pool. None of those interviewed recalled such an employee.
Further, a review of the employee roster failed to yield the name Haven Monahan or “Drew”.
All the male subjects on the employee roster were contacted by phone or email. Of those that replied, no one admitted to being the person described as “Drew “in the article, nor did they claim ever having a relationship with “Jackie”.
Another male subject was identified during the course of our investigation. This subject was both a member of a fraternity (not Phi Kappa Psi) and worked at the Aquatic and Fitness Center at the same time as “Jackie”. This individual cooperated fully with investigators in the presence of legal counsel to include providing copies of his work schedule and financial records which may have been relevant to a dinner date that “Jackie” had with her alleged offender at the Boars Head Inn on the evening of September 28, 2012.
Investigators turned their attention to the fraternity house in which this subject was a member in September 2006. They were provided the names of six (6) members who were living at the house at the time of this alleged incident; five (5) of the six (6) provided interviews. None of them knew “Jackie”, admitted to any involvement in a sexual assault having occurred on September 28, 2012, nor did they see or hear anything about a sexual assault occurring in the fraternity house at the time they lived there.
Investigation revealed that on September 28, 2012, this fraternity had a cookout for prospective members, and a themed event on September 29, 2012. Both of these functions were listed on the social calendar.
The membership of this fraternity was reviewed and failed to yield the names of Haven Monahan and “Drew”. Furthermore, the interior lay-out of the house itself is inconsistent with the description inside the fraternity in which the alleged assault was reported in the magazine to have taken place.
In her meeting with Dean Eramo, “Jackie” indicated that there were two other sexual assaults that had taken place in 2010 and 2014 at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. No victims have reported those incidents to the Charlottesville Police Department, nor have any witnesses come forward to report such an incident.
If anyone has information pertaining to either of these alleged incidents, they are strongly encouraged to contact the Charlottesville Police Department.
Based on the information known to investigators at this time, we find no substantive basis of fact to conclude that an incident occurred that is consistent with the facts as described in the November 19, 2014, Rolling Stone Magazine article.
The department’s investigation cannot rule out that something may have happened to “Jackie” somewhere and at some time on the evening of September 28, 2012. Yet, without additional evidence we are simply unable to reach a definitive conclusion.
This investigation remains open, yet suspended in the event additional evidence should come to light.
The Columbia Journalism School Review of Rolling Stone
Here is a summary of the key points of the Columbia Review by Steve Coll, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University; Sheila Coronel, dean of academic affairs; and Derek Kravitz, a postgraduate research scholar at Columbia.
The full report can be found at the Columbia Journalism Review.
(Jackie declined to respond to questions for this report. Her lawyer said it “is in her best interest to remain silent at this time”.)
Last July 8, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, a writer for Rolling Stone, telephoned Emily Renda, a rape survivor working on sexual assault issues as a staff member at the University of Virginia. Erdely said she was searching for a single, emblematic college rape case that would show “what it’s like to be on campus now … where not only is rape so prevalent but also that there’s this pervasive culture of sexual harassment/rape culture,” according to Erdely’s notes of the conversation.
Renda put the writer in touch with a rising junior at UVA who would soon be known to millions of Rolling Stone readers as “Jackie,” a shortened version of her true first name. Erdely said later that when she first encountered Jackie, she felt the student “had this stamp of credibility” because a university employee had connected them.
“I’d definitely be interested in sharing my story,” Jackie wrote in an email a few days later.
On July 14, Erdely phoned her.
Between July and October 2014, Erdely said, she interviewed Jackie seven more times.
Jackie proved to be a challenging source. At times, she did not respond to Erdely’s calls, texts and emails. At two points, the reporter feared Jackie might withdraw her cooperation. Also, Jackie refused to provide Erdely the name of the lifeguard who had organized the attack on her. She said she was still afraid of him. That led to tense exchanges between Erdely and Jackie, but the confrontation ended when Rolling Stone’s editors decided to go ahead without knowing the lifeguard’s name or verifying his existence. After that concession, Jackie cooperated fully until publication.
Erdely believed firmly that Jackie’s account was reliable. So did her editors and the story’s fact-checker, who spent more than four hours on the telephone with Jackie, reviewing every detail of her experience.
[Editor Sean] Woods and Erdely knew Jackie had spoken about her assault with other activists on campus, with at least one suitemate and to UVA. They could not imagine that Jackie would invent such a story. Woods said he and Erdely “both came to the decision that this person was telling the truth”. They saw her as a “whistle blower” who was fighting indifference and inertia at the university.
On Sept. 11, Erdely traveled to Charlottesville and met Jackie in person for the first time, at a restaurant near the UVA campus, [and] asked about speaking to Ryan. Jackie disclosed…she had bumped into him and had asked if he would be interested in talking to Rolling Stone, [but Ryan had said] “No! … I’m in a fraternity here, Jackie, I don’t want the Greek system to go down, and it seems like that’s what you want to happen. … I don’t want to be a part of whatever little shit show you’re running.”
Woods allowed the “shit show” quote from “Randall” into the story without making it clear that Erdely had not gotten it from him but from Jackie. … Not only did this mislead readers about the quote’s origins, it also compounded the false impression that Rolling Stone knew who “Randall” was and had sought his and the other friends’ side of the story.
Yet Jackie never requested – then or later – that Rolling Stone refrain from contacting Ryan, Kathryn or Alex independently.
All three friends would have spoken to Erdely, they said, if they had been contacted [and all would have disputed Jackie’s account of their roles].
On Sept. 16, for the first time, Erdely raised the possibility of tracking [Drew] down. … “I just know he’s graduated. I’ve blocked him on Facebook,” Jackie replied. “How would you feel if I reached out to him for a comment?” Erdely asked, the notes record. “I’m not sure I would be comfortable with that.”
On Oct. 20, Erdely asked again for the man’s last name. … “I don’t want to give his last name,” Jackie replied. “… He completely terrifies me.” After this conversation, Jackie stopped responding to Erdely’s calls and messages. Yet Jackie made no demand that Rolling Stone not try to identify the lifeguard independently. Erdely did try to identify the man on her own.
There was, in fact, an aquatic center lifeguard who had worked at the pool at the same time as Jackie and had the first name she had used freely with Erdely. He was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi, however. The police interviewed him and examined his personal records. They found no evidence to link him to Jackie’s assault.
Woods recalled asking Erdely after he read the first draft. “If you’ve got to go around Jackie, fine, but we need to verify this,” meaning Drew’s identity. He remembered having this discussion “at least three times”.
But when Jackie became unresponsive to Erdely in late October, Woods and [managing editor Will] Dana gave in. They authorized Erdely to tell Jackie they would stop trying to find the lifeguard. Woods resolved the issue as he had done earlier with the three friends: by using a pseudonym in the story.
On Nov. 3, after consulting with her editors, Erdely left a message for Jackie proposing to her a “solution” that would allow Rolling Stone to avoid contacting the lifeguard after all. The magazine would use a pseudonym; “Drew” was eventually chosen. Jackie called back quickly [and] chatted freely about the lifeguard, still without using his last name. From that point on, through the story’s publication, Jackie cooperated.
Rolling Stone’s editors did not make clear to readers that Erdely and her editors did not know “Drew’s” true name, had not talked to him and had been unable to verify that he existed.
Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” on Nov. 19, 2014.
The online story ultimately attracted more than 2.7 million views, more than any other feature not about a celebrity that the magazine had ever published.
A week after publication, on the day before Thanksgiving, Erdely spoke with Jackie by phone. “She thanked me many times,” Erdely said. Jackie seemed “adrenaline-charged … feeling really good.”
Erdely chose this moment to revisit the mystery of the lifeguard who had lured Jackie and overseen her assault. Jackie’s unwillingness to name him continued to bother Erdely. “This is not going to be published,” the writer said, as she recalled. “Can you just tell me?”
Jackie gave Erdely a name. But…Jackie was unsure how to spell the lifeguard’s last name, [and] speculated aloud about possible variations. “An alarm bell went off in my head,” Erdely said.
Over the next few days, worried about the integrity of her story, the reporter investigated the name Jackie had provided, but she was unable to confirm that he worked at the pool, was a member of the fraternity Jackie had identified or had other connections to Jackie or her description of her assault. She discussed her concerns with her editors. … The writer Richard Bradley had published early if speculative doubts about the plausibility of Jackie’s account. Writers at Slate had challenged Erdely’s reporting during a podcast interview. She also learned that T. Rees Shapiro, a Washington Post reporter, was preparing a story based on interviews at the University of Virginia that would raise serious doubts about Rolling Stone’s reporting.
Late on Dec. 4, Jackie texted Erdely, and the writer called back. It was by now after midnight. “We proceeded to have a conversation that led me to have serious doubts,” Erdely said.
In December, Jackie told The Washington Post…she had asked to be removed from the story, but that Erdely had refused. … There is no evidence of such an exchange between Jackie and Erdely in the materials Erdely submitted to Rolling Stone.
[Erdely] telephoned her principal editor on the story, Sean Woods, and said she had now lost confidence in the accuracy of her published description of Jackie’s assault. … Later that day, the magazine published an editor’s note that effectively retracted Rolling Stone’s reporting on Jackie’s allegations of gang rape at the University of Virginia.
On Dec. 5 … Rolling Stone posted an editor’s note on its website that … “our trust in her was misplaced”. … Early that evening, he changed course in a series of tweets. “That failure is on us – not on her,” he wrote. A revised editor’s note, using similar language, appeared the next day.
Failure and Its Consequences
This report is intended as a work of journalism about a failure of journalism. The report has several intended purposes. One is to illuminate the key reasons Rolling Stone’s failure was avoidable and to draw lessons. … Another purpose of the report is to assess independently and through fresh reporting some of the subjects Rolling Stone covered in the story, beyond Jackie’s account of sexual assault – particularly the timeline of how UVA handled Jackie’s information. The report also addresses how Rolling Stone’s editorial policies might be reconsidered to prevent future failure. And it evaluates how journalists might begin to define best practices when reporting about rape cases on campus or elsewhere.
Rolling Stone’s repudiation of the main narrative in “A Rape on Campus” is a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine’s editors to reconsider publishing Jackie’s narrative so prominently, if at all. The published story glossed over the gaps in the magazine’s reporting by using pseudonyms and by failing to state where important information had come from.
The problem of confirmation bias – the tendency of people to be trapped by pre-existing assumptions and to select facts that support their own views while overlooking contradictory ones – is a well-established finding of social science. It seems to have been a factor here.
In late March, after a four-month investigation, the Charlottesville, Va., police department said that it had “exhausted all investigative leads” and had concluded, “There is no substantive basis to support the account alleged in the Rolling Stone article.”
The magazine’s records and interviews with participants show that the failure of “A Rape on Campus” was not due to a lack of resources. The problem was methodology, compounded by an environment where several journalists with decades of collective experience failed to surface and debate problems about their reporting or to heed the questions they did receive from a fact-checking colleague.
Erdely and her editors had hoped their investigation would sound an alarm about campus sexual assault and would challenge Virginia and other universities to do better. Instead, the magazine’s failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations. (Social scientists analyzing crime records report that the rate of false rape allegations is 2 to 8 percent.) At the University of Virginia, “It’s going to be more difficult now to engage some people … because they have a preconceived notion that women lie about sexual assault,” said Alex Pinkleton, a UVA student and rape survivor who was one of Erdely’s sources.
In retrospect, Dana, the managing editor, who has worked at Rolling Stone since 1996, said the story’s breakdown reflected both an “individual failure” and “procedural failure, an institutional failure. … Every single person at every level of this thing had opportunities to pull the strings a little harder, to question things a little more deeply, and that was not done.”
Yet the editors and Erdely have concluded that their main fault was to be too accommodating of Jackie because she described herself as the survivor of a terrible sexual assault. Social scientists, psychologists and trauma specialists who support rape survivors have impressed upon journalists the need to respect the autonomy of victims, to avoid re-traumatizing them and to understand that rape survivors are as reliable in their testimony as other crime victims. These insights clearly influenced Erdely, Woods and Dana. “Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim; we honored too many of her requests in our reporting,” Woods said. “We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice.”
Erdely added: “If this story was going to be about Jackie, I can’t think of many things that we would have been able to do differently.”
Yet the explanation that Rolling Stone failed because it deferred to a victim cannot adequately account for what went wrong. Erdely’s reporting records and interviews with participants make clear that the magazine did not pursue important reporting paths even when Jackie had made no request that they refrain. The editors made judgments about attribution, fact-checking and verification that greatly increased their risks of error but had little or nothing to do with protecting Jackie’s position.
There is no evidence in Erdely’s materials or from interviews with her subjects that she invented facts; the problem was that she relied on what Jackie told her without vetting its accuracy.
Yet Rolling Stone’s senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story’s failure does not require them to change their editorial systems. … Dana said. “We just have to do what we’ve always done and just make sure we don’t make this mistake again.” Coco McPherson, the fact-checking chief, said, “I one hundred percent do not think that the policies that we have in place failed. I think decisions were made around those because of the subject matter.”
Yet better and clearer policies about reporting practices, pseudonyms and attribution might well have prevented the magazine’s errors. The checking department should have been more assertive about questioning editorial decisions that the story’s checker justifiably doubted.
Stronger policy and clearer staff understanding in at least three areas might have changed the final outcome:
Pseudonyms. Pseudonyms are inherently undesirable in journalism. They introduce fiction and ask readers to trust that this is the only instance in which a publication is inventing details at its discretion. Their use in this case was a crutch – it allowed the magazine to evade coming to terms with reporting gaps. Rolling Stone should consider banning them.
Checking Derogatory Information. If the fact-checking department had understood that such a practice was unacceptable, the outcome would almost certainly have changed.
Confronting Subjects With Details. If both the reporter and checker had understood that by policy they should routinely share specific, derogatory details with the subjects of their reporting, Rolling Stone might have veered in a different direction.
For Journalists: Reporting on Campus Rape
Of all crimes, rape is perhaps the toughest to cover. The common difficulties that reporters confront – including scarce evidence and conflicting accounts – can be magnified in a college setting. Reporting on a case that has not been investigated and adjudicated, as Rolling Stone did, can be even more challenging.
There are several areas that require care and should be the subject of continuing deliberation among journalists:
Balancing sensitivity to victims and the demands of verification. Because questioning a victim’s account can be traumatic, counselors have cautioned journalists to allow survivors some control over their own stories. This is good advice. Yet it does survivors no good if reporters documenting their cases avoid rigorous practices of verification. That may only subject the victim to greater scrutiny and skepticism.
Corroborating survivor accounts. … track down every available shred of corroborating evidence – hospital records, 911 calls, text messages or emails that have been sent immediately after the assault. In some cases, it can be possible to obtain video, either from security cameras or from cellphones. Many assaults take place or begin in semipublic places such as bars, parties or fraternity houses.
Victims often interact with administrators, counselors and residence hall staff members. … FERPA restrictions are severe, yet the law allows students to access their own school records. Students at public universities can also sign privacy waivers that would allow reporters to obtain their records, including case files and reports.
Holding institutions to account. Given the difficulties, journalists are rarely in a position to prove guilt or innocence in rape. “The real value of what we do as journalists is analyzing the response of the institutions to the accusation,” Bogdanich said (Walt Bogdanich is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times who has spent the past two years reporting on campus rape).
In the email sent through her lawyer, [assistant dean of students Nicole] Eramo wrote, Rolling Stone “made numerous false statements and misleading implications about the manner in which I conducted my job as the Chair of University of Virginia’s Sexual Misconduct Board, including allegations about specific student cases. Although the law prohibits me from commenting on those specific cases in order to protect the privacy of the students who I counsel, I can say that the account of my actions in Rolling Stone is false and misleading. The article trivializes the complexities of providing trauma-informed support to survivors and the real difficulties inherent in balancing respect for the wishes of survivors while also providing for the safety of our communities.”
My Commentary on the Columbia Report
For all the honest analysis of the journalistic failures of Rolling Stone, the Columbia report also engaged in a similarly wanton act of misreporting, worrying that “the magazine’s failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations” and stating that “social scientists analyzing crime records report that the rate of false rape allegations is 2 to 8 percent”.
In fact, the best research has consistently shown rates of false rape allegations of between 25% and 50%, with the higher numbers being on campus.
Just as the Rolling Stone writers, editors and fact-checkers simply assumed the veracity of Jackie’s story because it fit the narrative of an “epidemic” of campus sexual assault, Columbia’s Steve Coll repeated an oft-stated statistic, and gave it credibility simply because it comes from apparently reliable sources – but he failed to fact-check his own sources.
For an overview of false rape allegations and other myths of the “rape culture” meme, see Men are Twice-Raped.
As for Rolling Stone, it’s evident that the commissioning of the report from Columbia Journalism School was little more than an on-the-cheap Cover Your Ass tactic (RS paid only expenses for the review). All parties at Rolling Stone have stated that no one will be fired and there will be no significant changes in policy – they will merely do what they’ve always done a bit better (by which they can only mean not get caught next time).
In an interview with the New York Times discussing Columbia’s findings, Jann S. Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone, acknowledged the piece’s flaws but said that it represented an isolated and unusual episode and that Ms. Erdely would continue to write for the magazine. The problems with the article started with its source, Mr. Wenner said. He described her as “a really expert fabulist storyteller” who managed to manipulate the magazine’s journalism process. When asked to clarify, he said that he was not trying to blame Jackie, “but obviously there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep.”
Mr. Wenner said Will Dana, the magazine’s managing editor, and the editor of the article, Sean Woods, would keep their jobs.
Dana said that the report was punishment enough for those involved, and that they did not deserve to lose their jobs because the article “was not the result of patterns in the work of these people”.
For the backstory on Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s entire journalism career built on fictions and half-truths, see: Journalistic Fabulism and Ideological Agendas – the Sabrina Rubin Erdely Story.
As for Jackie, she will have to go through life known as the Great Story Teller who fooled not only many supporters and victim advocates on the U-VA campus, but also journalists, editors and publishers – not just at Rolling Stone, but at the many mainstream media outlets which ran with the sensational story before it began to fall apart – as well as activists and politicians who used the scandal to pursue an agenda of increasing government oversight of colleges.
What I hope this story teaches the rest of us is that otherwise decent women will lie about rape and sexual assault with stunning alacrity if it serves their needs for an alibi for regretted sexual behavior (or other unwanted consequences), revenge against those who spurn them, or attention-seeking (the three most common reasons given by women for lying about rape).
This was hardly an isolated or rare occurrence. As the research makes clear, women admit to lying about rape for the three reasons listed above. That the attitude among the victim advocacy community is to “always believe the woman”, merely exacerbates the normal human tendency to lie for personal gain or to cover up personal failings.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes
Dear President Sullivan – letter from 17 attorneys involved with campus sexual assault claims throughout America, detailing specific reasons why they “are concerned that the University’s Proposed Student Sexual Misconduct Policy is both vastly over inclusive in attempting to define prohibited conduct and ill equipped to guarantee a procedure for resolving allegations that is fair and impartial”.
It’s Time for a U-VA Apology – Op-Ed from a 25-year U-VA professor and his U-VA junior son
Misandric Feminism vs. Progressive Gender Equality (excerpt of above)
Male Victims of Sexual Violence (also an excerpt of above)
Journalistic Fabulism and Ideological Agendas – the Sabrina Rubin Erdely Story
New Puritanism – New Paternalism – The “Rape Culture” Narrative Demeans Women, Demonizes Men, and Turns Universities into Witch Hunt Tribunals
Dear Senators – letter from 20 attorneys critical of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S. 2692)
Sexual Assault and Justice: Can we reconcile the belated attention to rape on campus with due process? by Nancy Gertner, feminist lawyer, retired federal judge and Harvard Law professor
The Pendulum Reverses – Again – The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses & Men Strike Back against Title IX Tribunals
HELP for DOE Regulatory Excess – A Senate Task Force Report Recommends Scaling Back the Mountain of Regulations Strangling Higher Education Institutions
Men are Twice-Raped – Domestically and Globally, Men and Boys are Victims of Sexual Violence at rates Equal to those of Women, and are Assumed to be Villains whenever a Woman Accuses
All Sex is Rape – All Men are Rapists : Patriarchy = Rape Culture
A Model of Campus Gender-Based Harassment – The Columbia University “Mattress” Story
A Case Study in “Politically-Correct” Reactionary Response – The Duke Lacrosse Team Stripper Rape Hoax
When the Megaphone becomes the Gavel – Two legal experts on sex discrimination law and procedure argue that the current Title IX mandates for America’s colleges and universities are legally unsupportable and both practically and ethically indefensible.
Two Over-Privileged Millennials Engage in Sex and Get F-cked – The Stanford “Model” Student and her Silicon Valley Mentor
The Rape Culture Meme – It’s to authentic human culture what genetically modified corn is to maize.