‘Jackie’s Story’: the myth that only pro-rape activists seek proof of a crime
The fallout from ‘Jackie’s Story’ of barbaric gang rape in a campus frat house continues to haunt Rolling Stone magazine and the University of Virginia. The magazine apologised for Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story allegedly coerced from the hesitant ‘victim’.
Jackie’s Story was used to beat “lad culture“, sticking to the narrative of male sexual violence running unchecked. Circumspection and facts had no place in the lurid tale of depravity. We were all told to push back the “sea of misogyny“. Guilt was assumed. The frat boys were invited to prove their innocence in kangaroo courts.
Stuff elightenment. Although not a lynching, the story had echoes of the Scottsboro Boys. No proof needed when you have the usual suspects in the crosshairs.
We might never know what really happened to Jackie. But the feeling is that, whatever it was or wasn’t, it’s not as Erdely presented it.
With the story out there, Charlottesville Police Department investigated. They came up with nothing. On Monday Police Chief Timothy Long addressed the public:
“Unfortunately, we’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident that is consistent with the facts in the article occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, or any other fraternity house for that matter. I want to be clear: that doesn’t mean that something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie on the evening of September 28, 2012…So this case is not closed – it’s not closed by any stretch of the imagination.”
No evidence that it happened is not proof that it never happened. Police have not closed the investigation, just “suspending” it.
“We were very distinctly told that she [Jackie] would not talk to us, that she would not file a report, that she did not want an investigation and that we were not to talk to her again.
Through counsel, Jackie also refused to provide a statement, answer questions or give consent to police to access school records protected by federal privacy laws.
Megan McArdle notes a few things police did find:
Mostly the police provided a few extra details here and there, which they were able to do because, well, they’re the law. For example, the story also includes a later incident where Jackie was attacked by people who threw a beer bottle at her, which broke on her eye. After that incident, Jackie told police that her nursing student roommate had had to take glass out of her skin from the thrown beer bottle; the roommate apparently denies this, and the police, who saw her wound about a week after the incident allegedly happened, said that while she did have an abrasion near her eye, appears to be more of an abrasion rather than a blunt trauma injury.
Police also said they had gone through the fraternity records, which showed no evidence of an event that night, and added that since their sister sorority was having a formal that evening, it’s very unlikely that they would have held the kind of substantial party described in the article…
…they said they actually found a timestamped photograph of the accused fraternity’s side entrance, taken at 11:30 pm on the evening of the rape, and it shows a guy standing there alone, with two chairs, which is not consistent with the sort of party described in the article, since the side entrance is right near the main staircase.
Jessica Valenti hears the same police press conference and concludes:
Longo echoed what anti-rape experts have been saying all along: while holes in Jackie story could mean that she lied about some things, either to the reporter or the dean to whom she originally spoke, it doesn’t necessarily mean she lied about being raped.
Anti-rape experts are a bit like anti-war campaigners: very few people are generally pro rape and pro war. In a civilised society, anti-rape is the default position, at least it should be. And as for ‘Jackie’ being economical with the truth, the problem is that her accusations cast a dark shadow over the frat houses and every man in them.
Phi Kappa Psi chapter president Stephen Scipione says Phi Psi is “exploring its legal options to address the extensive damaged caused by Rolling Stone”.
No-one in the dock for rape. The only crime was the story. Will the agenda-driven writer and the titillating magazine be made to pay? What about Jackie, of whom Glamour asks, “Should Jackie Be Prosecuted?”
“…false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault. We hope that Rolling Stone’s actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve. Following the publication of the defamatory article, the chapter launched an extensive internal investigation, which quickly confirmed that the horrific events described in the Rolling Stone article did not occur. Both the Virginia Alpha chapter and Phi Psi’s national organization adhere to a strict zero tolerance policy in regards to sexual assault.”
We should now more when the Columbia School of Journalism investigation how the writer’s reporting failed is published on April 8.
Posted: 26th, March 2015 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink