Civil Liberties

Rolling Stone's UVA Rape Story Continues to Fall Apart



Additional reporting over the weekend revealed even more discrepancies in Rolling Stone's rapidly disintegrating story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia frat house.

In the original 9,000-word piece, author Sabrina Rubin Erdely describes the friends Jackie talks to the night she is allegedly raped in a way that makes them come across as almost cartoonishly callous. Erdely's story says that Jackie was wounded, with blood on her dress after a multi-hour assault on a bed of broken glass.

But in Erdely's telling of the story, the three friends Jackie speaks with—two men and a woman—end up debating whether it's a good idea to take her to the hospital, because a trip to the emergency room would harm her social reputation. "Her reputation will be shot for the next four years," says "Cindy," (not her real name), another one of the friends. "She's gonna be the girl who cried 'rape,' and we'll never be allowed into any frat party again."

But when the Post spoke to two of the friends, they said that that's not what happened. One, the man identified in the Rolling Stone story as "Andy," said that Jackie did call him and two additional friends one night. According to "Andy," Jackie said she was very upset and "really shaken up." Here's what he recalls happening:

"Andy" said Jackie said she had been at a fraternity party and had been forced to perform oral sex on a group of men, but he does not remember her identifying a specific house. He said he did not notice any injuries or blood but said the group offered to get her help. She, instead, wanted to return to her dorm, and he and the friends spent the night with her to comfort her at her request.

Cindy's recollection, as reported by the Post, is similar:

"Cindy" said that Jackie appeared distraught that night but was not hurt physically and was not bleeding. The student said Jackie made no claims of a gang rape and did not identify the fraternity where she said she had partied. "Cindy" said Jackie told one of the friends there that a group of men had forced her to perform oral sex.

The student said there was never any discussion among Jackie and the group involving how their reputations or social status might be affected by seeking help.

Notably, even though both "Andy" and "Cindy" are quoted in the story, both say Rolling Stone never interviewed either of them. Cindy says that Rolling Stone never even contacted her. 

They aren't the only friends of Jackie to suggest problems with the Rolling Stone story. The Post also reports that Emily Renda, who works for the university on responding to sexual violence, and who introduced Jackie to Erdely, now says that the number of attackers present in Jackie's story has changed over time. 

Rolling Stone has updated its apology note detailing potential discrepancies. There are quite a few issues. (You can see changes between the old note and the new one here.)

At this point you have to ask: Did Rolling Stone do anything to corroborate or verify the details of Jackie's sensational story of organized gang rape at a university fraternity, which provided the horrific opening anecdote to Erdely's story? Increasingly it appears as if the answer is no. A New York Times report on the story contains this line: "In an interview on Friday, Mr. Dana said that Rolling Stone had not sought to corroborate her account after she asked the magazine not to speak to her attackers."