A searing new story in Rolling Stone claims that an 18-year-old student at University of Virginia, whom they call Jackie, was gang-raped at a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house just weeks into her freshman year, then discouraged from reporting the rape by both her friends and the school. According to Jackie, fellow students warned that her "reputation would be shot" within the school's Greek scene if she went to the police. When she took her story to the head of the school's Sexual Misconduct Board, she was offered a range of "formal" and "informal" resolutions to the matter. Without guidance, she did nothing, and has spent her time at UVA traumatized, while the men who allegedly raped her got off scot-free.
In her story, Rolling Stone's Sabrina Rubin Erdely explores not just the horrifying details around the alleged rape, but also the culture at UVA that allowed it to occur. UVA is one of dozens of schools being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for its alleged handling of sexual assault claims. The school, Erdely writes, lacks an activist scene, as well as an open discussions about rape on campus, the kind that we've seen at places like Columbia University:
But the dearth of attention isn't because rape doesn't happen in Charlottesville. It's because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students – who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture – and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal. Some UVA women, so sickened by the university's culture of hidden sexual violence, have taken to calling it "UVrApe."
In response to the story, UVA's president Teresa Sullivan has issued a statement saying she has directed Charlottesville police to investigate the incident, and promising the university will "cooperate fully."
"The University takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct," Sullivan writes, "a significant problem that colleges and universities are grappling with across the nation. Our goal is to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for our students and the entire University community."
In an interview with the Cavalier Daily, UVA's student paper, Erdely called university administrators "extremely unhelpful" during the reporting process, adding, "I think the administration is concerned about its image, and they were concerned about how the article was going to reflect on them, so instead of being transparent I think they made it far worse for themselves by stonewalling me."
Phi Kappa Psi's national chapter has also released a statement, saying they're taking the allegations "very seriously" and pledging to also cooperate with police.
Update, 2:30: Phi Kappa Psi's UVA chapter has also released a statement, saying they're taking the allegations seriously and that they've suspended all activities until the investigation is complete. Here it is in full:
Although at this time we have no specific knowledge of the claims set out in the Rolling Stone Article, we take this matter — and these tragic allegations — very seriously. That is why after being notified by the University of allegations following their informal investigation in late September, we subsequently notified our alumni chapter advisor and housing corporation. Through these representatives, local law enforcement was notified within days. This is a serious matter for the criminal justice system and the university investigative process and we will cooperate quickly, openly and honestly in any forthcoming investigation that may be conducted. To that end, as of today we have voluntarily surrendered our Fraternal Organization Agreement with the University, thereby suspending all chapter activities during this process. Make no mistake, the acts depicted in the article are beyond unacceptable — they are vile and intolerable in our brotherhood, our university community and our society. We remain ready and willing to assist with the fair and swift pursuit of justice, wherever that may lead, and steadfast in our resolve to ensure that nothing like this can happen, ever on our Grounds.
Earlier today, Charlottesville NBC affiliate WVIR reported that the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house has been vandalized, with the words "suspend us," "UVA Center for Rape Studies" and "Stop Raping People" spray-painted on the building. Several windows were also broken.
Vandalism is bad, mmmkay, but also, you know:
Image via Flickr/Phil Roeder