Why Can't We Call the UVA Case a Hoax?

Evidence of how extreme and irrational "rape culture" dogma has become


Four months after Rolling Stone magazine published a shocking—and soon discreditedaccount of a fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia, the Charlottesville police department has released the results of its investigation into the alleged assault. It comes as no surprise that "no substantive basis" was found for the claim by a student known as "Jackie" that she was raped by seven men at a fraternity party as a UVA freshman in September 2012. What's striking is to what lengths both the police and many in the news media have gone to tiptoe around the obvious fact that the tale was a hoax by a serial liar. This dance of denial suggests that in the current ideological climate, it is nearly impossible to declare any allegation of rape to be definitely false. 

At the press conference, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo stressed that the department's conclusion "doesn't mean something terrible didn't happen to Jackie" and that the investigation is not closed but only suspended until new evidence emerges.

It is, of course, nearly impossible to prove a negative. Short of a surveillance tape documenting Jackie's every movement, one cannot know for certain that she was never sexually assaulted at UVA. But the evidence against her is damning. It's not simply that there was no party at Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity named by Jackie, anywhere near the time when she said she was attacked. It's not simply that her account changed from forced oral sex to vaginal rape and from five assailants to seven, or that her friends saw no sign of her injuries after the alleged assault. What clinches the case is the overwhelming proof that "Drew," Jackie's date who supposedly orchestrated her rape, was Jackie's own invention.

Back in the fall of 2012, Jackie's friends knew "Drew" as "Haven Monahan," an upperclassman who supposedly wanted to date her and with whom she encouraged them to exchange emails and text messages. However, an investigation by The Washington Post and other media last December found that "Haven's" messages were fake; the phone numbers he used were registered to online services that allow texting via the Internet and redirecting calls, while his photo matches a former high school classmate of Jackie's who lives in a different state. No "Haven Monahan" exists on the UVA campus or, apparently, anywhere in the United States (at least outside romance novels). The catfishing scheme seems to have been a ploy to get the attention of a male friend on whom Jackie had a crush—the same friend she called for help after the alleged assault.

Is it possible that someone sexually assaulted Jackie on the night when she claimed to be going out with her fictional suitor? Theoretically, yes. But it's also clear that her credibility is as non-existent as "Haven Monahan."

Moreover, the police investigation has debunked another one of Jackie's claims: that in spring 2014, when she was already an anti-rape activist, some men harassed her in the street off-campus and threw a bottle that hit her face and (improbably) broke. Jackie said that her roommate picked glass out of a cut on her face; but the roommate disputes this and describes the injury as a scrape, likely from a fall. Jackie also said she called her mother immediately after that attack, but phone records show no such call.

Despite all this, Chief Longo wouldn't call Jackie's story a false allegation and even referred to her as "this survivor" (though amending it to the more neutral "or this complaining party").

Meanwhile, in the CNN report on the March 23 press conference, anchor Brooke Baldwin, correspondent Sara Ganim and legal analyst Sunny Hostin were tripping over each other to assert that "we have to be very careful" not to brand Jackie a liar and that "she could have been sexually assaulted." Hostin argued that the idea that Jackie made it all up "flies in the face of statistics," because "only about 2 percent of rapes that are reported are false."

This is a bogus statistic, which Hostin misattributed to the FBI. (According to FBI data, 8 to 9 percent of police reports of sexual assault are dismissed as "unfounded"; the reality of false rape reports is far more complicated, and it's almost impossible to get a reliable estimate.) Even if it were true, it would say nothing about Jackie's specific case. What's more, statistics on false allegations generally refer to police reports or at least formal administrative complaints at a college—neither of which Jackie was willing to file.

CNN never mentioned the evidence that Jackie fabricated "Haven Monahan." Neither did the New York Times, which said only that "the police were unable to track Mr. Monahan down."

Jackie's defenders argue that rape victims often change their stories because their recall is affected by trauma. It is true that memory, not just of traumatic events, can be unreliable; a victim may at various points give somewhat different descriptions of the offender or the attack. It is also true that, as writer Jessica Valenti argues, someone who tells the truth about being raped may lie to cover up embarrassing details (such as going to the rapist's apartment to buy drugs).

None of that, however, requires us to suspend rational judgment and pretend that Jackie's story is anything other than a fabrication. While Jackie is probably more troubled than malevolent, she is not the victim here. If there's a victim, it's Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity branded a nest of rapists, suspended and targeted for vandalism—as well as UVA Dean Nicole Eramo, whom the Rolling Stone story painted as a callous bureaucrat indifferent to Jackie's plight.

In this case, at least, there were no specific accused men. But the extreme reluctance to close a rape investigation and call a lie a lie bodes ill for wrongly accused individuals, who may find themselves under a cloud of suspicion even after all the facts exonerate them.

Evading the facts does a disservice to Jackie, too. In a sane environment, she would face disciplinary charges and perhaps mandatory counseling. In a climate where saying that a woman is lying about rape is tantamount to "victim-blaming" and "rape culture"—and where some of Jackie's fellow students say that even if her story "wasn't completely true," it helped bring attention to important issues—she is likely to remain mired in self-destructive false victimhood.

For the rest of us, this episode shows how extreme and irrational "rape culture" dogma has become, and how urgent it is to break its hold on public discourse. The current moral panic may be an overreaction to real problems of failure to support victims of sexual violence. But when truth becomes heresy, the pendulum has swung too far, with disastrous consequences for civil rights and basic justice.

This column originally appeared at RealClearPolitics.

NEXT: Fifth Grader Suspended for 'Illegal' Filming of Teacher Who Bullied Student

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. JEWS DID 9/11 JACKIE!!!

  2. Hostin argued that the idea that Jackie made it all up “flies in the face of statistics,” because “only about 2 percent of rapes that are reported are false.”

    Shorter: improbable things never happen, and people don’t lie about sex or alleged rape.

    1. At what percent would fake rape no longer fly in the face of statistics? 5? 10? 25? Also, how close does a number have to be to be “about”? In this case 2 is 7 away from the 9 quoted by the FBI.

      I don’t know why I still get irritated by crap journalism but I do.

      1. Then you’ll enjoy this.

        I saw on the “News” the other day an explanation of what 1.9 quintillion means.

        Voiceover: “Eighteen zeroes.”

        Screen image: “1.9000000000000000000”

      2. What irritates me anout this is not crap journalism, but crap activism. Enough real rapes happen, even in our fairly safe society, for it to be an ongoing social issue. But because one group of self-appointed Social Arbiter have decided to ise it as a club to beat on all men with, the real issue isn’t being addressed.

        1. Very few rapes actually happen. Most are just drunk people, which our society has determined falls on the responsibility of men because penises. But aside from mutual drunk sex there’s like a dozen rapes a year.

    2. Also, if 2% of rape accusations are false (which, incidentally, is a claim with no basis in fact that feminists basically just made up) then that means there are hundreds if not thousands of false rape accusations annually.

      One of those false accusations could very easily be Jackie’s. So it doesn’t fly in the face of statistics at all, unless you think that something being rare means it’s impossible.

      1. I don’t know, I could easily see 2% of rape accusations being false for certain values of the term rape accusation and false.

        If by “rape accusation” you mean that the alleged victim actually filed a complaint with the police and by “false” you mean completely fabricated events which never occurred then yeah 2% sounds about right.

        The problem is that the overwhelming majority of “false” rape cases are not reported to the police and are based on a heavily slanted and redacted version of the truth in which consentual sex was had and for whatever reason the “victim” either decided that it was rape after the fact, or decided that it was in her best interests to tell everyone that she was raped.

        Then there is the even larger group where there is a very legitimate question as to whether a rape occurred because one party honestly believes that it was consentual and the other does not. The problem with these is that some of them really were rape and some of them were not but there is almost never any actual evidence outside of the word of the 2 people involved.

        All totaled those 3 groups probably account for somewhere around 40 – 60% of all rape accusations (which includes both those reported to authorities, and those where they were not).

        1. Feminists did in fact basically make it up. It comes supposedly from a second-hand unsourced off hand remark by an NYC police officer that Susan Brownmiller says she heard a judge say in her book “Against Our Will” written about 40 years. Clearly, it is therefore an inviolable truth for all time and space. Despite being contradicted by recent larger numbers ranging from 6-10% from the major law enforcement agencies.

          It’s also worth noting that just because a rape claim is not ruled unsubstantiated does not mean it isn’t false, so simply saying 1-6%=94% are true is not correct. less than half of that 94% were found guilty at trial, and call me a rape a apologist, but I bet some of those not guilty people are actually, like, not guilty, and some of the cases the prosecutor through out due to lack of evidence lacked evidence because they actually didn’t happen.

    3. What is improbable is that fase rape claims are only 2%. It may be as high as in the 40 percential range.

  3. With all due respect, is there proof *Jackie* exists?

  4. But when truth becomes heresy
    True-believers are emboldened by the heretical. Hoaxes are a form of fuel that strengthens the simple-minded. Resistance to that which perturbs doctrine is a welcome challenge. Faith is actually sustained and gains perverse power.

    1. It’s cases like this where you really see who the activists are and who the fanatics are. There’s unfortunately far more people in my social media feeds that call themselves “activists” but are really just fanatics obsessing about the principal cause of the day. From my observations, the true activists in my circle are always more visible when the movements start, and generally speaking their original causes are pretty reasonable until the phase where hashtags start getting passed around. That’s usually the point where the cause starts devolving into kulturwar.

      1. My wife and I were just discussing that this morning.

        MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) had a reasonable cause, but has morphed into a modern temperance league so much that the founder quit in protest.

        Greenpeace started out to save certain endangered animals and has morphed into modern Luddites focused on Man Made Climate Change so much the founder quit and protested.

        Seems like every good cause eventually gets taken over by the nut-jobs and the founders get run off.

        1. The answer is simple: being a nut-job and zealot is easy, and being an activist is hard, because the two types operate in inherently opposite ways. Besides being more knowledgeable by necessity, someone that is truly active about a cause will do so even when social consensus is going against them. A zealot cannot operate without feeling that their team and public opinion is on their side.

        2. Maybe I’m wrong, but I gues the phenomenon is one where it takes different kinds of people to raise a cause and to follow a cause. The former can (not always, but sometimes) simply see something they think is wrong and want to see it fixed. The latter tend to be a lot more the kind of people who get their moral and social validation from their association with the cause. That is, the former tends to think of themselves as taking up the cause because they are good people. The latter tend to think of themselves as good people because they’ve taken up the cause.

          1. I guess that it can be boiled down to a principals/principles argument. To a true activist, the cause is the principal goal; to a fanatic, social validation is the primary goal. A true activist necessarily needs solid principles to properly promote their cause; a fanatic doesn’t need to think about principles to make noise, get attention, and feel validated.

    2. True-believers are emboldened by the heretical. Hoaxes are a form of fuel that strengthens the simple-minded. Resistance to that which perturbs doctrine is a welcome challenge. Faith is actually sustained and gains perverse power.

      Read that in my Yoda voice I did!

  5. OT: The shocking moment border patrol Tasered 25-year-old in his car – and the vehicle burst into flames and burned him to death

    They originally claimed the video was recorded over, but the FBI managed to recover it. But the officers got home safely. It’s all that matters.

    1. Holy fucking shit. This may be the worst nutpunch yet.

    2. I’m still posting this in my Daily Fails.

    3. Gabriel Pacheco, a lead Border Patrol union representative, said that the proper protocols were followed in the chase and stopping Martin’s vehicle.

      He said the fire posed a high risk to the agents, and that Martin’s death could have been avoided if he had just pulled over.

      Protocols were followed. Disobedience was met with death. The King’s Men went home safely. And nothing else happened. WINNING!

      1. That’s some fucking gruesome protocol right there, buddy. Mr. Dummy McRottenface Pacheco is a sinister as they come.

      2. The federal government are trying to have the case dismissed.

        Compelling government interest.

      3. He said the fire posed a high risk to the agents,

        Posed a pretty fucking high risk to the driver, too.

        What a subhuman scumbag this union goon is. All that matters is that union members were frightened. Not even injured. Just frightened. The fact that somebody actually died is of no account.

        1. The fact that a *peasant* died is inconsequential compared to our rulers having to bear uneasy feelings.

    4. What does it say about the current state of affairs that I’m actually giving them credit for using the Taser instead of just pumping the car with three magazines worth of bullets?

    5. And I was already pissed off by this article; now I’m furious. Police cheerleaders in the comments section of the article are saying he should have complied. Hmm, unmarked car chasing him down the road, who would comply with that. They didn’t announce/identify who they were so he’d have no idea who he was complying to. And he wasn’t given much chance once he was stopped and the cop car blocked the driver-side door. No protocol was followed.

      1. “Police cheerleaders in the comments section of the article are saying he should have complied.”

        Any peasant who doesn’t immediately bend over for our overlords deserves to get it extra hard.

        “No protocol was followed.”

        Protocol 1 – Put the peasants in their place.

  6. Fake, but accurate.

    1. Rather appropriate that this came out the same day as a Law and Order SJW episode based on this whole incident.

  7. “But when truth becomes heresy, the pendulum has swung too far, with disastrous consequences for civil rights and basic justice.”

    I really hope people don’t think the progs want questioning and dissent equated to heresy on JUST this issue. Shutting down debate through vilification of the opposing party simply for raising questions is SOP.

    1. I used to think that you mainly saw this phenomenon in the AGW/climate change circles, but this whole idea of shutting down dissent through groupthink is one of the main mechanisms of the progressive wheel. To use an AGW talking point that I hear way too often: “Don’t like our theory? Just remember that you will be part of the 3-5% of climate DENIERS and you will be discredited by every credible scientist in the field.” I always tell these folks to read about miasma theory before they think their favorite climate scientists’ theories and models show bulletproof evidence.

      1. Progressives feel that the ad hominem fallacy is a compelling argument. You don’t need to debate what a person actually says if you can impugn them personally.

        1. I don’t think that most people believe that their arguments are ever ad hominem, and to use my AGW example again, I think that many progs legitimately believe that if the majority of those “Ivy League/MIT/Cambridge/Caltech climate scientists” buy the AGW consensus, that you’d have to be completely ignorant to deny and fight the genii. I’m sure they think the same way about those rape statistics put together by Top Statisticians at the FBI.

          1. I don’t believe that they think anything. They feel. Because if they gave it any thought they’d see it for the bullshit that it is.

            1. The term “groupthink” gives progressives too much credit. It’s ironic that the same ones that are able to poke fun at nut-cases on the wrong side (like doomsday preppers) for feeling rather than thinking end up doing the exact same thing for their pet causes. Self-awareness truly is not a strong suit for many progs.

              1. Self-awareness truly is not a strong suit for many progs.

                Nope. But they are adept at projection.

            2. I don’t believe that they think anything. They feel.

              I’ve often found in debates with progressives, that they’ve outsourced the act of thinking to the collective. I’ve gone so far as to actually tell progs:

              I”ll accept what you’re telling me. All you have to do is actually prove your point. I’m willing to sit here and listen to you. I’m willing to consider the evidence you present. I’m willing to give your reasoning the benefit of the doubt. All you have to do is substantively make your case without recourse to “everybody knows” or insults to those who disagree with you. Make it with facts, reason, and logic.”

              They look at me like they’re a deer in the headlights.

              1. Make it with facts, reason, and logic.

                Might as well ask a toddler to solve a differential equation.

      2. “Don’t like our theory? ”


  8. GENDER TRAITOR!!!!!11!!111!!!!! /DERP

    1. Yeah, like this is the thing to cause Young to be a gender traitor.

      Feminists have been calling Cathy Young a traitorous wench who doesn’t toe the party line for years.

      Cathy Young – who makes a career out of arguing sexism doesn’t exist – says gender studies turns women into victims.”

      I don’t recall Cathy Young claiming sexism ‘doesn’t exist’ but if Valenti didn’t have straw men she’d have nothing at all.

      1. You know, you can believe that sexism exists, AND that gender studies turn women into victims.

      2. They’re straw women, you misogynistic pig.

        1. “They’re straw women womyn, you misogynistic pig.”

      3. That’s why I read her. Traitorous wenches are cool.

  9. I bet her name isn’t even Jackie! I’m sorry to blow your mind.

  10. But when truth becomes heresy,

    print the heresy.

  11. Is it possible that someone sexually assaulted Jackie on the night when she claimed to be going out with her fictional suitor? Theoretically, yes. But it’s also clear that her credibility is as non-existent as “Haven Monahan.”

    NO! It isn’t possible. There is a point where accepting a theoretical becomes more stupid than declaring definitely it can’t be true.

    Obviously if she had been raped she would have come up with some credible details. Since she didn’t it is unreasonable to say it was theoretically possible.

    1. When said the right way, saying something is “theoretically possible” is the same as saying it is unreasonable. It just lets the duller minds feel like you are agreeing with them.

      It is theoretically possible that the sun will explode tomorrow…

  12. People, please. “Jackie” was yesterday. Its Old! Nothing good is old.

    What’s new is always better. And among the things we need to be shocked and outraged by?

    “”An enormous amount of profit and greed
    Former SeaWorld trainer condemns the shocking exploitation of captive whales

    Motherfucking whales. The evil of profit knows no limit.

    And it should come as no surprise to people that some of these whales are black. mostly.

  13. They trot out the bogus 2% statistic for the same reason DA’s peddle the idea that 90% of all defendants are guilty.

    Decent folks do occasionally wonder: “What should we do whenever we don’t know what happened?”

    “Innocent until proven guilty” answers the question, but since few Americans believe that rap, especially not about RAPE, we employ BS statics to help us sleep soundly, secure in the belief that “just a few” innocent people are rotting in jail/ getting executed. And, since a high % of the unjustly imprisoned are minorities and almost all are male, even if the system IS flawed, it won’t ever harm a wealthy white salon-reading feminist soccer mom. yawn. Debate resolved. Time to watch jon Stewart!

    Given the direct choice of a chuckling rapist walking free to find another helpless victim or an innocent frat rat going to jail, which option wins on twitter?

  14. My ex-wife makes $75 every hour on the laptop . She has been laid off for seven months but last month her pay check was $18875 just working on the laptop for a few hours.
    Look At This. ???? http://www.jobsfish.com

  15. The term “groupthink” gives progressives too much credit.

    Using “groupfeel” resulted in too many rape accusations.

  16. …where some of Jackie’s fellow students say that even if her story “wasn’t completely true,” it helped bring attention to important issues…

    The issues of false rape allegations?

  17. It starts when you show the balls to identify Jackie Coakley by name.

  18. That sorts it. Henceforth, “Haven Monahan” will replace my “porn name” whenever I need to sign up for some stupid shit.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.