The 'Rolling Stone' Apology For Its UVA Article Shouldn't Distract From Our Campus Sex Assault Epidemic
When Rolling Stone published a deeply harrowing article on an alleged gang-rape at the University of Virginia on Nov. 17, it reignited a national conversation about rape on college campuses throughout the United States and administrations' — in particular, the University of Virginia's — abject inability to appropriately respond to the issue. These facts, in broad strokes, still stand; but on Friday, Rolling Stone published a formal apology note about the article, entitled "A Note To Our Readers."
Rolling Stone, and in particular writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had come under fire for not mentioning that the alleged rapists at Phi Kappa Psi had denied the claims. Erdely was also widely criticized for not speaking to any of the accused. Erdely and Rolling Stone had maintained that the magazine had tried to reach out to the accused, and that Erdely had spoken to two officials at the fraternity in lieu of the accused rapists. "I'm satisfied that these guys exist and are real," Rolling Stone editor Sean Woods told the Washington Post.
In its formal "note to readers," Rolling Stone did not touch on specific claims or facts that were in dispute. It blamed the victim, "Jackie," for the "discrepancies" and went some way to defend the magazine's writers and editors, which has been widely interpreted as victim-blaming.
Now, the fraternity in question — so reviled on campus that there were demonstrations outside the house, and fraternities were temporarily shut down — will reportedly say publicly that there was no party on the night that "Jackie," the anonymous victim in the Rolling Stone story, was assaulted, and that several other notable facts of her story are in dispute, according to the Washington Post.
The big takeaway? As Rolling Stone writes, the fact that one women's story turned out to not be entirely consistent with the truth — again, this is not to say that Jackie was not raped, just that there were "discrepancies" between what Jackie told Erdely and what happened — could possibly damage the credibility of sex assault victims everywhere. Regardless of Jackie and her personal story, and quite regardless of Rolling Stone and its reporting, sex assault is a widespread problem on college campuses across the United States, and the fear of not being believed is what leads many young victims to not report their assaults. Amid all the back-and-forth over this single story, we cannot forget that.
From Rolling Stone's note: