As public reproach of Rolling Stone's article featuring an alleged UVA gang-rape reaches fever pitch, with the help of Columbia University's damning report on the magazine's editorial process, one key figure has stayed silent. The article describes the sexual assault of a UVA student referred to as Jackie, whose account of a gang rape at a fraternity was horrifyingly graphic. So, now that Rolling Stone has retracted the story, it's worth asking — did Jackie participate in the Columbia report?
Short answer: no. According to the report:
Jackie declined to respond to questions for this report. Her lawyer said it "is in her best interest to remain silent at this time." The quotations attributed to Jackie here come from notes Erdely said she typed contemporaneously or from recorded interviews.
So, what did we glean about Sabrina Rubin Erdely's work with Jackie from the report? Well, last July, Rolling Stone's Erdely was introduced to Jackie through a UVA staff member working to raise awareness of sexual assault, Emily Renda. The connection through a staff member and sexual assault activist gave Jackie a "stamp of credibility," Erdely told Columbia. When Erdely first approached Jackie for the story, the student seemed receptive, the report said, with Jackie writing in an email, "I'd definitely be interested in sharing my story."
However, as Erdely began the interviewing process, certain details seemed to frighten Jackie, such as when Erdely asked for Drew's — her main assailant — last name, and when she asked to examine Jackie's bloodstained dress. "I felt frustrated," Erdely noted in the report, "but I didn't think she didn't want to produce [corroboration]."
In December, The Washington Post began publishing reports that challenged Jackie's allegations. When the Post interviewed Jackie that same month, she supported her initial account and gave her last public statement:
I never asked for this [attention.] What bothers me is that so many people act like it didn’t happen. It’s my life. I have had to live with the fact that it happened — every day for the last two years.
According to the Columbia report, Jackie told the Post in December that she asked Erdely to remove her from the story, but the writer refused, an exchange that Erdely says never happened. Columbia was not able to find any evidence of the conversation.
Since then, Jackie, who is now being represented by a legal team, has declined to respond to Columbia for their report, The New York Times, who covered the report, and further questions by the Post. Her lawyer told Columbia that it "is in her best interest to remain silent at this time."
Sheila Coronel, one of the Columbia report's authors, told a news conference on Monday:
We have no contact with Jackie … and her lawyers refuse to answer our questions.
Regardless of her reasons for staying quiet, however, the most important thing to remember is that the errors in Jackie's account to Erdely imply that Jackie was not a victim of sexual assault, nor that she deliberately lied to Erdely. It was Rolling Stone's responsibility to help steer her toward justice, not scrutiny.
Images: Getty Images (2)