Rolling Stone is backing away from a story published last month alleging that the University of Virginia had failed to respond to a shocking gang rape of a first-year student in 2012, citing “discrepancies” in the account of the unnamed accuser.
“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,” Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana wrote on the magazine’s website today.
Media critics had begun picking apart the story, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, as it became apparent that Erdely had not attempted to contact the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity where the rape had been alleged to have taken place. Erdely admitted in media interviews that she had not the alleged perpetrators at the request of the accuser, who was given the pseudonym “Jackie” for the purpose of reporting on the story. Dana in his note to readers wrote that the accuser’s friends and activists at UVA strongly supported the account, and that the accuser “neither said nor did anything” that made the magazine doubt her account.
“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,” Dana wrote.
The UVA chapter of Phi Kappa Psi issued a statement today that casts more doubt on the account. It had been alleged that the ringleader of the assault was a fraternity member who was known to the victim because they both worked together at the Aquatic and Fitness Center as lifeguards, but the frat said none of its members was employed as a lifeguard at the Aquatic and Fitness Center in 2012 when the attack was alleged to have occurred.
The story also listed a specific date for the attack, Sept. 28, 2012, but the fraternity said today that it did not host any social functions the weekend of Sept. 28.
The Washington Post reported today that a group of Jackie’s close friends have also come to doubt her account, noting that details of the story that she has provided have changed over time, and that the name of the alleged attacker that she provided to them for the first time just this week, more than two years after the alleged incident, turned out to be the name of a student who belongs to a different fraternity.
The Post reported that it had been able to make contact with that man, and that he said by phone that he did work at the Aquatic Fitness Center, but that he had never met Jackie or taken her on a date, and that he was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
The University of Virginia has not yet issued any comment on the developments in this story.