Rolling Stone's managing editor Will Dana has issued a statement announcing that they have found "discrepancies" in the account of Jackie, the UVA student who was allegedly gang-raped at a frat party two years ago. Dana adds: "We have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced." At the same time, the Washington Post reports that the fraternity in question, Phi Kappa Psi, are planning to release a statement rebutting key parts of Jackie's account.
The Rolling Stone statement, which you can read in full here, defends how reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely went about the story, including her decision not to contact Jackie's alleged attackers at her request. But "new information," they say, has caused them to question her account:
Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie's credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie's account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.
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. 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.
The Washington Post reports that Phi Kappa Psi will say in their statement they didn't hold a party on the night of September 28, 2012, and that several other key details in Jackie's account of her attackers aren't true:
The officials also said that no members of the fraternity were employed at the university's Aquatic Fitness Center during that time frame — a detail Jackie provided in her account to Rolling Stone and in interviews with The Washington Post — and that no member of the house matches the description detailed in the Rolling Stone account.
The Post also says they've been unable to corroborate Jackie's account, and that even some of her supporters on campus have begun to doubt her version of events, although they maintain she is clearly traumatized by something:
A group of Jackie's close friends, who are sex assault advocates at U-Va., said they believe something traumatic happened to Jackie but have come to doubt her account. They said details have changed over time, and they have not been able to verify key points of the story in recent days. A name of an alleged attacker that Jackie provided to them for the first time this week, for example, turned out to be similar to the name of a student who belongs to a different fraternity, and no one by that name has been a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
This is really, really bad. It means, of course, that when I dismissed Richard Bradley and Robby Soave's doubts about the story and called them "idiots" for picking apart Jackie's account, I was dead fucking wrong, and for that I sincerely apologize. It means that my conviction that Sabrina Rubin Erdely had fact-checked her story in ways that were not visible to the public was also wrong. It's bad, bad, bad all around. (And, frankly, it could have been avoided, had Erdely been clearer in her disclosures about what she'd done to reach Jackie's alleged attackers and what her agreement with the girl had been. This announcement wouldn't be producing nearly the same shockwaves if those things had been clearly outlined.)
Saddest of all, this is bad in ways that have far-reaching social consequences: we've just begun, as a society, to not immediately and harshly question a woman who says she was raped. We've just begun to talk about campus sexual assault — which is, to be clear, still a very real problem at UVA and across the country.
I have contacted Rubin Erdely and her editor for further comment and will update if I hear back.