Rolling Stone has been slammed for publishing “A Rape on Campus,” an article that revealed that a freshman at the University of Virginia was raped on Sept. 28, 2012. The astonishing pitfall to this is that Charlottesville police could not find evidence of this assault.
Sabrina Erdely wrote that the freshman—who was only referred to as Jackie throughout the article—was a victim of gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. In the article, Erdely illustrates Jackie’s horrific experience by explaining that Greek life has an influential presence on this university’s campus; one-third of undergraduate students are part of a sorority or fraternity affiliated with Greek life.
University Administrator Nicole Eramo, declared that the report perceived Jackie as the criminal and called for $7.85 million in damage reparations. The article, however, recognized that Eramo seemed apathetic toward Jackie’s traumatic event. After the article went to print, Eramo, the then-associate dean of students, received numerous accounts of insulting emails and letters, labeling her as a “wretched rape apologist” and a “disgusting, worthless piece of trash.”
Prior to April 2015 when Rolling Stone properly withdrew the article, the prestigious magazine already faced a startling three lawsuits. The $25 million lawsuit arranged by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia is anticipated to go to trial next year.
A judge broadcasted that Erdely was bewildered when Jackie said two other women were gang-raped by members of the same fraternity. Eramo’s attorneys declared their intention to have Jackie as a witness at the trial, even though there is a likelihood that the jury will watch a video of her testimony instead of mandating a court appearance. Jackie was mandated to answer questions regarding the allegations and case against the magazine in April, but her testimony was not released to the public. The jury will be prepared to analyze countless documents and notes, email exchanges between Erdely and her interviewers and audio recordings of Erdely questioning Jackie.
The most stunning aspect about this controversy is that it is challenging to defend it. The man whom Jackie claimed to be her date that fateful night was not a University of Virginia student, and has not visited Charlottesville for six years. According to the inaccurate article, Jackie was reported to be a mile away from the schools’ fraternities that night. Her friends, referred to as “Andy,” “Cindy” and “Randall” who came to Jackie’s aid, additionally revealed to The Washington Post that the Rolling Stone article does not correspond with what Jackie said to them that night. Charlottesville police conducted an inquiry and found no proof to uphold Jackie’s claims.
Mistakes in reporting are tolerable since they can happen frequently. It is unjustifiable, however, that Rolling Stone did not take any action to correct the error. It seemed that neither the editor nor the writer did any fact-checking for the details of the story.
Erdely only set out to question Jackie’s friends, who were the surrounding sources, rather than question Jackie, who is the pivotal source.
Rolling Stone should have been accountable and more observant of the blunders. This incident tests the magazine’s credibility and reliability. It will further damage the magazine’s future success.
Despite the negligence and the careless errors, Rolling Stone should nevertheless receive only part of the condemnation. The publication should not enter the trial expecting to encounter defeat. Attorneys and jurors from the trial will need to examine the case of the rape thoroughly.
Jackie, on the other hand, is definitely a living source who has a primary narrative to tell. Jackie deserves a voice. The mysteries of that night should be unraveled, and the unexplained details of this issue should be more thoroughly scrutinized.