UVA rape: time to name the victims and challenge the lawyers
The Rolling Stone’s pisspoor story on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia continues to unravel:
The Post’s T. Rees Shapiro, whose previous reporting prompted Rolling Stone to issue an editor’s note Friday acknowledging some discrepancies, has now interviewed three students mentioned in the story as friends of Jackie, the alleged victim.
The three students — identified by Rolling Stone and the Post as “Randall,” “Andy,” and “Cindy” –- gave an account to the Post for Wednesday’s story that differed significantly from the one described by contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely in her explosive 9,000-word article about Jackie’s ordeal published online Nov. 19.
The three students recall Jackie, in tears, telling them on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, that she had been forced to perform oral sex on five men. In the Rolling Stone article, Jackie recalled seven men brutally raping her on top of broken glass at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house that night. The students told the Post they urged Jackie to call the police. In the Rolling Stone story, they are depicted as advising her not to report the crime.
All three students told the Post that Erdely never contacted them for her Rolling Stone article. Erdely wrote in the article that “Randall” declined an interview about the rape because of “loyalty to his own frat.”
Rolling Stone acknowledged Friday that Erdely did not try contacting the alleged attackers for comment because of an agreement with Jackie, who had expressed fears of reprisal.
Is a libel action looming? Send for the lawyers – if you can find them:
For eight years, Ms. [Dana] Rosen seems to have gotten along swimmingly, citing the defeat of Britney Spears in the pop star’s defamation claim against US Weekly as a particularly satisfying win and sending around a funny memo about the need for employees to maintain their cool amid the excitement of filming of the MTV reality show I’m From Rolling Stone.
And then something curious happened. After the UVA story was published on November 19 but before things started to unravel in early December, Ms. Rosen, who had once professed to having “had nothing but good experiences with [Jann],” suddenly left the company. She took a job as general counsel at ALM, the respected publisher of legal trade properties including Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal and The New York Law Journal. A fine collection of titles, to be sure, but one would imagine there’s far less chance that Bob Dylan saunters through the offices of The American Lawyer.
In a brief conversation with the Observer, Ms. Rosen could not recall exactly when she tendered her resignation.
“Really, the dates are irrelevant. My resignation had nothing to do with that story. I just had a great opportunity that came up at ALM, and I chose to take it. But it really unequivocally had nothing to do with that story.”
Asked if she participated with the reviewing of the UVA story, Ms. Rosen, replied, “I’m not going to comment on the process. That’s really all I want to say. Again, it really—unequivocally—had nothing to do with that story. Without a doubt.”
According to Ms. Rosen’s close friend, documentary filmmaker Pamela French, Ms. Rosen started at ALM this past Monday, December 8, and “had given her month’s notice right before the story hit.” That would put her date of resignation somewhere around Friday, November 7. The UVA story was certainly already going through legal channels by that point, but it’s unclear what degree of fact-checking and legal review had been completed.
Can we fact check Jackie?
Genever Overholser explains:
No surprise then, that for so many years, newspaper editors have agreed to “protect” rape victims by refusing to name them. So why hasn’t this helped correct the underreporting and reduce the retaliation? Maybe because the anonymity, rather than being part of an effective solution to an unacceptable reality, contributes to its prolongation. In other words, it does more harm than good.
You don’t have to believe that there are many women bringing false charges of rape (I don’t) to understand that a fundamental unfairness lies waiting to be exploited when one person is named and another is not, particularly in a crime as inevitably private as rape.
And exploited, it regularly is, as we see again and again — vividly in the case of those bringing allegations against Cosby, and in the appalling New York Times magazine story on sexual assault in the military People react angrily to the woman who “takes down” a beloved old comedian, a talented airman, a great football player – or just a cool frat guy.
If anonymity’s silencing keeps the crime’s dimensions hidden, and its unfairness feeds the fires of those disinclined to hear victims’ truths, anonymity has yet another worrisome trait: It prevents the public from fully engaging with the problem. As journalists well know (but choose distressingly often to ignore) nothing affects public opinion like real stories with real faces and names attached. Attribution brings accountability, a climate within which both empathy and credibility flourish…
Journalists are avidly tearing apart the Rolling Stone for its appalling dereliction of duty, and rightfully so. But all who have shared in this idea of anonymity as a protection of rape victims have played a role in bringing us to this moment. We have been participants in the notion that rape and silence go hand in hand. It’s a notion outmoded at last, and those who pursue it become more and more irrelevant.
Tell and stick to the facts…