Key details of the chilling tale of a gang rape involving nine fraternity members at the University of Virginia are now being called into question, and Rolling Stone, the magazine that reported the story, had admitted it was fooled.
The story involves a student named Jackie who alleged that on Sept. 28, 2012, she was gang-raped by nine members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at a house party.
But now, The Washington Post is reporting that several of Jackie’s friends, many of whom are sexual assault awareness activists at the school, have raised questions over the details in her story.
Officials with the fraternity’s national chapter are set to release a statement later Friday.
“One of my biggest fears with these inconsistencies emerging is that people will be unwilling to believe survivors in the future,” Alex Pinkleton, a friend of Jackie’s and a campus sexual assault activist, told The Washington Post. “However, we need to remember that the majority of survivors who come forward are telling the truth.”
“While the details of this one case may have been misreported, this does not erase the somber truth this article brought to light: Rape is far more prevalent than we realize and it is often misunderstood and mishandled by peers, institutions, and society at large,” Pinkleton continued.
Jackie has changed several key parts of her story, the Post reported. And the fraternity is disputing that it even held a party on the night that Jackie says she was attacked.
One figure mentioned prominently in the Rolling Stone piece was a third-year student named “Drew” who Jackie said she worked with at the school’s swimming pool. She said that “Drew” took her to a date function that night. At the house party later, he took her upstairs where seven other fraternity members were laying in wait.
A glass table was broken, and she was left bloodied by the brutal rape.
A fraternity official told the Post that none of their fraternity members were employed by the school’s swimming center during that period.
One student Jackie named for the first time only this week in interviews with the Post was a member of another fraternity.
That man never met Jackie, he told the paper.
Another friend of Jackie’s says she feels betrayed.
“An advocate is not supposed to be an investigator, a judge or an adjudicator,” Emily Renda, a recent UVA graduate and sexual assault activist, told the Post.
“I don’t even know what I believe at this point,” she said of Jackie’s story. “This feels like a betrayal of good advocacy if this is not true. We teach people to believe the victims. We know there are false reports but those are extraordinarily low.”
Renda said that Jackie’s story changed over time. She initially said five men attacked her, Renda claimed. The number inflated to seven.
Renda testified earlier this year at a U.S. Senate hearing on campus sexual assault, citing the story of a woman she called Jenna who claimed she was attacked by five men. The details from that testimony match Jackie’s story.
According to the Post, Jackie’s friends do believe that she experienced some sort of traumatic incident, they are just not sure what.
“I never asked for this,” Jackie told the Post, referring to the attention she’s received after the Rolling Stone article was published.
“What bothers me is that so many people act like it didn’t happen. It’s my life. I have had to live with the fact that it happened every day for the last two years.”
Jackie also told the Post that she was unhappy with how Erdely handled her story.
“If she had not come to me I probably would not have gone public about my rape,” said Jackie, who was put into contact with Erdely by Renda.
Jackie said that she “felt completely out of control over my own story.” She also told the Post that some aspects of her story may have been inaccurate.
According to the paper, Jackie refused to provide the full names of the two men she knew who she claimed had attacked her. She also contracted herself during interviews this week when she told the Post that she was not sure if one of her attackers was a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
“He never said he was in Phi Psi,” Jackie said. “I know it was Phi Psi because a year afterward my friend pointed out the building to me and said that’s where it happened.”
On Friday, Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, issued a note to readers admitting that it had failed to vet some parts of Jackie’s story.
“Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled ‘A Rape on Campus’ by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults,” Rolling Stone wrote in a note to readers.
“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” the magazine continued. “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.”