A rape on campus: one year later

It was an article that shocked the nation.

In a remarkable 9,000 word account, Rolling Stone journalist Sabrina Erdely chronicled the narrative of a then University of Virginia first-year student, under the pseudonym Jackie, who was alleged to have been viciously gang-raped by nine men in the University’s Pi Kappa Psi fraternity in the fall of 2012.

Last week, U.Va.’s Pi Kappa Psi fraternity filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone, claiming that the story made the fraternity the “object of an avalanche of condemnation worldwide.”

Thursday, Nov. 19 marked the one year anniversary of the publication of the article. Here is a recap of what has been a tumultuous year of the events following the publication of the article.

Erdely’s “A Rape on Campus” described in detail Jackie’s account of the alleged rape and the ensuing cover-up of her reports of the crime, which involved her friends advising her to remain silent about the rape and what appeared to be a tepid reaction from university officials when she did come out with her story.

Erdely told The Washington Post she was pleased that her article had sparked a discussion about the nature and prevalence of sexual assault on campuses across the country, but following a barrage of scrutiny the article was debunked by the media and later redacted by Rolling Stone.

Below is a timeline of events recounting the article and surrounding controversies.

Nov. 19, 2014

A Rape on Campus” is published in Rolling Stone.

When yet another hand clamped over her mouth, Jackie bit it, and the hand became a fist that punched her in the face. The men surrounding her began to laugh. For a hopeful moment Jackie wondered if this wasn’t some collegiate prank. Perhaps at any second someone would flick on the lights and they’d return to the party. Grab its motherfucking leg,” she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.”

U.Va. president Teresa Sullivan releases a statement in response to the article the same day.

I want to underscore our commitment to marshaling all available resources to assist our students who confront issues related to sexual misconduct. Our dedicated Student Affairs staff devote countless hours to educating and counseling our students on issues regarding their health and safety, and they stand ready to assist whenever students need help … I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to formally investigate this incident, and the University will cooperate fully with the investigation,” reads Sullivan’s statement.


Nov. 20, 2014

Virginia senator Tim Kaine tells Slate the story is horrific

I’m most interested to see what the university’s response is,” he said, “not really what they say in response, but what they do in response.”

The Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at U.Va. releases a statement also on Nov. 20.

Although at this time we have no specific knowledge of the claims set out in the Rolling Stone Article, we take this matter — and these tragic allegations — very seriously…as of today we have voluntarily surrendered our Fraternal Organization Agreement with the University, thereby suspending all chapter activities during this process,” reads the fraternity’s statement.

The same day, the Phi Kappa Psi chapter house is vandalized. The house’s windows are broken through with chunks of bottles and cinderblock.

Nov. 22, 2014

U.Va. suspends all fraternities on campus.

Beginning immediately, I am suspending all fraternal organizations and associated social activities until January 9th, ahead of the beginning of our spring semester … In the intervening period we will assemble groups of students, faculty, alumni, and other concerned parties to discuss our next steps in preventing sexual assault and sexual violence on Grounds,” said U.Va. president Teresa Sullivan in a statement.

Nov. 24, 2014

Richard Bradley, editor-in-chief of Worth magazine raises questions on the article’s veracity on his personal blog.

Then there’s the fact that Jackie apparently knew two of her rapists, but they are not named, nor does Rubin Erdley contact them, which is basically a cardinal rule of journalism: If someone in your story is accused of something, you’d better do your damnedest to give them a chance to respond,” Bradley writes.

Dec. 2, 2014

Erdely stands by her reporting, telling The New York Times:

I am convinced that it could not have been done any other way, or any better,” she said. “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.

Dec. 5, 2014

The Washington Post calls into questions key allegations made in the Rolling Stone article:

  • The fraternity said there was no event at the house the night the attack was alleged to have happened.
  • Friends of Jackie’s alleged account differs from what actually happened.
  • One of the alleged attackers Jackie identified to her friends — a junior in 2012 who worked with her as a university lifeguard — was actually 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.
  • Phi Kappa Psi claimed a roster of employees at the university’s aquatic center showed no members of the fraternity worked there at the time.

The same day, Rolling Stone releases a statement admitting there were errors made in the reporting of the story.

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.”

Dec. 9, 2014

The Washington Post reports Charles Johnson, a conservitive, one-time Daily Caller contributing writer, has allegedly identified the sexual assault victim and released all her personal information over his Twitter account.

Jan. 12, 2015

Bloomberg News reports that the number of applications to U-Va. drops for the first time in 12 years.

March 23, 2015

After five month investigation Police say they found no evidence that sexual assault took place.

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,” said Police Chief Timothy Longo said at a news conference. “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.”

April 5, 2015

After an investigation commissioned by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, the Columbia Journalism Review releases a 12,000 word report of “A Rape on Campus” highlighting key errors in the approach of the piece’s writer, and the Rolling Stone’s editorial process.

A story of journalistic failure that was avoidable … The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting.”

The same day, U.Va. Associate Dean of students, Nicole Eramo, files $7.5 defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone.

Eramo, who is responsible for dealing with sexual assault cases brought to the administration by students says the article destroyed her credibility by falsely portraying her actions in the case as indifferent.

July 29, 2015

Will Dana, Managing Editor of RS announces he will no longer be working for the publication. Asked whether “A Rape on Campus” contributed to it, Publisher Jann Wenner said “many factors go into a decision like this.”

May 26, 2015

The Washington Post reports Charles Johnson, the social media “troll” who allegedly ousted the identity of the U.Va. rape victim has been suspended from Twitter.

Nov. 9, 2015

Phi Kappa Psi’s U.Va, Chapter files a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone, claiming the article had done extreme damage to the fraternity’s reputation.

Staff Writer, Fadel Allassan

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 9.11.49 PMFadel is a sophomore print journalism major. He is fluent in English and French and enjoys writing about politics. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

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