UVA Story Begins to Unravel: Rape. Reporting. Loyalty.

Guest Post by: Amanda T. Smith, student


Image from “Rolling Stone” magazine

Rape: Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration initiated against one or more individuals without the consent of those individuals (definition of rape, UVA website) Reporting: an account or statement describing in detail an event, situation, or the like, usually as the result of observation, inquiry, etc. Loyalty: the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations. These are the three key aspects in the UVA Gang rape case. How do they align? In this specific case a young woman named Jackie met a reporter from Rolling Stone and felt the need to let her story be told. Jackie reported that she was gang raped by members of Phi Kappa Psi, and the story was published for the world to see. Rape victims are often silenced, but in this case Stephanie Erdely cared enough to get Jackie’s story down on paper and tell the world. Finally, a rape story was being taken seriously! Rape victims all over the world were sure to have felt empowered and maybe even filled with courage to let their stories be told and bring light to the reality that rape does indeed happen. But then, no more than one month later, Rolling Stone printed a retraction. It stated, “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account. 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.” This retraction changed everything! Not only was the entire story not credible, reputations were ruined, and on a bigger scales, rape victims were now taken even less serious as there were before. The stereotypes surrounding rape victims, and the harsh ideas that they are all “liars” or “attention seekers,” were now affirmed through this retraction. So who was to blame? Jackie? Who could have most definitely experienced rape and simply exaggerated a few of the details? Or Stephanie, who through good intentions and her loyalty to empathy and compassion failed to fact check? Although her intentions might have been good, this backfired. Now, because of their retractions, rape victims everywhere are looked at to be less credible. Fraternities and all of the negative connotations associated with them, because of a poorly written story, are affirmed. The credibility of a trusted source is lessened, and a school’s name is dragged through the mud for not being more responsive and alert to these types of crimes happening on their campuses. So, what do you do? Do you believe the poor rape victim who has mustered up enough courage to tell her story and respect her wish to not contact anyone else? Or do you uphold a code and fact check all sides of every story, even if it discredits what might have been a true allegation? In this case, Stephanie Erdely chose to be loyal to her heart, but at what cost?


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